Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 19

Atalanta: a clean bill of health for the Goddess, but Musa Barrow and Roger Ibanez have not been called up because they are about to transfer.

Bologna: Blerin Dzemaili will be back after missing one with the flu, Ladislav Krejci is inching closer to recovering from a knee bruise. Gary Medel suffered a hamstring strain and will miss three weeks. Stefano Denswil has been ruled out. 

Brescia: Andrea Cistana and Sandro Tonali are suspended. Alfredo Donnarumma and Emanuele Ndoj are expected to return after skipping one with muscular ailments. Daniele Dessena is almost ready after a malleolous fracture.

Cagliari: Fabrizio Cacciatore picked up a thigh problem that will force him to sit out the upcoming game, likewise Federico Mattiello. Luca Ceppitelli (foot) has yet to be cleared, while Alessio Cragno, even if he is not ready to play yet, has been called up for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery.  Continue reading

Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Three Midfield Options for Juventus

Four months into the Maurizio Sarri era and Juventus remain undefeated, both in domestic and European play. While most of the bianconeri’s wins have been close affairs, there have been glimpses of Sarriball in full flow. Paulo Dybala has returned to his typical lofty standards while Gonzalo Higuain has redeemed himself following indifferent loan spells. At the back, Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt have formed a formidable partnership, backstopping the Italian champions. In midfield, however, concerns remain.

Beyond Miralem Pjanic, Sarri has rotated Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira and Rodrigo Bentancur among others but is yet to establish his best midfield three. After all, other than the Bosnian international, they all lack the necessary quality to play for Sarri. As a result, Juventus need reinforcements in the middle of the park. Here are three names within Serie A they can target when the window reopens in January.

Sandro Tonali (Brescia) - The midfield maestro has been in sensational form since making the step up to the top flight and would fit like a glove in Sarri’s possession-based system. In many ways, Tonali could play in the Jorginho-role as a regista while Pjanic is pushed higher up the pitch, making further use of his creativity. While many have likened his play to that of Andrea Pirlo due to his passing range, he’s no slouch defensively and is tenacious without the ball.

Given his quality on the ball and his desire to win it back off it, he should be a no-brainer for Juve. Factor in that he hasn’t even hit 20 years old yet and he’s the ideal long-term solution to the bianconeri’s midfield woes. Juventus are said to be keeping tabs on the midfielder and will reportedly pursue his signature this summer.

Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma) - While the Roma midfielder isn’t for sale, he’s exactly the type of player Juventus need in the middle of the park. Equally capable of covering ground as he is picking a deadly ball, Pellegrini is the definition of a modern midfielder. This season, Pellegrini already has registered six assists in eight Serie A games and has taken his game to the next level under Paulo Fonseca.

At just 23 years of age, Pellegrini has a long career ahead of him both domestically and internationally. Juventus were reportedly keeping tabs on the player in the past and their sporting director Fabio Paratici is said to be a big fan of the Roma man. Juventus and Roma have done business in the past and have demonstrated they are willing to work together on the transfer market. It may be unlikely, but few players fit Sarri’s Juve better than Pellegrini.

Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina)Sticking with the theme of technical Italian midfielders, Fiorentina’s Castrovilli is another player Juventus should seriously consider. Rather than focusing their efforts and budget on his teammate, Federico Chiesa, the bianconeri would be wise to monitor Castrovilli’s progression. Since emerging onto the scene, the 22-year-old has won over the viola faithful with his industrious nature and is slowly evolving his game.

While he still has improvements to make across his game, Castrovilli is a good dribbler and could hurt the opposition in possession. Without the ball, the Fiorentina man is responsible and is eager to put in a shift. In many ways, his game is eerily reminiscent of young Claudio Marchisio. However, let’s pump the brakes for now. For one, he has a long way to go and most importantly, Fiorentina are unlikely to give Juve another one of their home-town boys.

All three players are youthful, technical players who would allow Sarri to further implement his footballing philosophy at Juve and are arguably available for the right price. Tonali may be the likeliest of the three given his team, but Juve would be foolish not to consider Pellegrini or Castrovilli.

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Serie A Round 15 Fantacalcio Player Trends: Stock Down

League leaders Inter will be looking to extend the gap at the top when they take on Roma in a few hour’s time. Juventus, on the other hand, will be traveling to Roma’s cross-town rivals Lazio and are eager to return to winning ways. However, Ciro Immobile and co. are in sensational form and will arguably have something to say about that. Otherwise, Napoli take on Udinese and Atalanta host Hellas Verona.

With match-day 15 upon us, here are FIVE players you should consider dropping from your elevens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Matthijs de Ligt (CB, Juventus, Value 14.21) – After a phenomenal performance against Atletico Madrid, the Dutchman got the nod against Sassuolo and put in a display to forget. Turkish international Merih Demiral will be wondering what he has to do to get into the side. While the former Ajax man is still young and growing pains are a part of the process, he’s proven to be error-prone this season, costing Juventus both goals and penalties.

With the Dutchman struggling for form and a high-powered Lazio coming up, I would temporarily swap de Ligt out of my fantacalcio side.

Krzysztof Piatek (FWD, Milan, Value 12.00) - When the side’s left-back is the joint top goalscorer on a whopping three goals, you know Milan currently have a striking problem. Since his breakthrough year, the Polish international has looked a shade of his former self and hasn’t found the back of the net since his strike against Lecce back in October. That’s six games without a goal.

At 12 million euros, you can do better and select a player who’s actually in-form. Whether it’s the number nine curse at Milan, a complete lack of service, or his own wastefulness, Piatek is not someone you want in your sides moving forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo (FWD, Juventus, Value 17.36) - Speaking on misfiring forwards, Ronaldo is yet another player who hasn’t exactly played his best football this season and has struggled to attain his typically lofty heights. While there are reports that the former Real Madrid man is nursing a knee injury, Ronaldo has looked a step behind the pace and often finds himself firing shots from unlikely ranges. As of right now, it’s Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain scoring the important goals for Juve and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.

His star-name and past experience may attract you but based on current form, there are better options for his 17.36 million euro price-tag. It may be difficult, but you probably need to drop Ronaldo.

Kostas Manolas (DEF, Napoli, Value 10.73) - When the Greek international joined Napoli, he was supposed to add defensive solidity and form a fearsome partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly. Fifteen match-days into the season and nothing of the sort has taken place. In fact, Napoli’s defence has taken a step-back if anything this season, conceding 18 goals already and only have one clean sheet in their last nine games in all competitions.

While Manolas is not the only one to blame, the former Roma man’s elevated price-tag means he’s a luxury not worth purchasing. Consider replacing him with high-flying fullbacks or the man who took his place in the nation’s capital, Chris Smalling.

Sandro Tonali (MID, Brescia, Value 12.00) - While the midfield maestro has been Brescia’s only bright-spot this season, he has struggled in recent weeks. Since Fabio Grosso’s appointment, Brescia have conceded ten goals, scoring none, and lost all three games. Grosso has since been replaced with the man he took over from, however, that arguably won’t change Brescia’s fortunes.

As a result, you would be wise to temporarily use the 12 million elsewhere and wait until Corini steadies the ship once more.

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Brescia fire Grosso and turn back to Corini

With the team squarely at the bottom of the of the standings and coming off three straight losses, Brescia president Maurizio Cellino decided to revert last month’s questionable decision on Monday, announcing the firing of Fabio Grosso and the return on the bench of Eugenio Corini.

The squad had not responded to the coaching change as they were soundly defeated by Torino, Roma and Atalanta: they conceded ten goals while failing to score a single one. During matches, the Curva repeatedly asked for the return of the manager that led to the promotion last season. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 13

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

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 12

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 appoint Grosso after sacking Corini

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

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Nine

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

On the Rise: Sandro Tonali

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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