Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three – Other Games

FIORENTINA-SAMPDORIA

Fiorentina: the Viola were rather unlucky to be pipped at the post by Inter, but on the offensive end they surely raised the bar compared to opener, primarily thanks to a superb Franck Ribery, who shredded the defence and dished two assists. However he is said to be banged up, so the others could have a bigger role in this case. Gaetano Castrovilli, who notched the second goal in a row, and Federico Chiesa capitalized, while Christian Kouame benefitted from a generous feed by Giacomo Bonaventura. The ex-Genoa striker has separated himself from Patrick Cutrone and Dusan Vlahovic as main centre-forward and should end up being their primary scorer, even though generally throughout his career he has fared better as second-striker. The Gigliati are pretty stacked offensively and Cristiano Biraghi has been exuberant down the left flank.

Suggested picks: Kouame, Chiesa, Ribery.

Sampdoria: the Blucerchiati thought they had the Benevento game in the bag, but the Sanniti had different plans. Despite the second-half collapse, the Blucerchiati produced more than against Juventus, as natural, and Fabio Quagliarella quickly opened his seasonal tally, followed up by Omar Colley’s first Serie A goal. The offense got a boost with the addition of Antonio Candreva as right winger, who provided an assist right away. Federico Bonazzoli and Jakub Jankto instead have not been great in the first two games, while the secondary option Morten Thorsby was supplanted by Valerio Verre in the midfield last week, who was pretty good at Verona, but featured in a much more advanced position. Tommaso Augello uncorked few decent crosses in the last game, while Manolo Gabbiadini hit the post immediately upon subbing in and might get the start this week. Jankto has been ruled out, which could lead to an extended run for newcomer Mikkel Damsgaard or last year’s late bloomer Kristoffer Askildsen.

Suggested picks: Quagliarella, Candreva, Gabbiadini.

SASSUOLO-CROTONE

Sassuolo: the Neroverdi predictably detonated in the Spezia match, taking advantage of a lousy defence, and could be in a similar spot this week given Crotone’s early struggles on that front. Jeremie Boga still has not cleared the COVID-19 protocol: Lukas Haraslin was limited by an injury in the last game, but Gregoire Defrel picked up the slack more than convincingly, while Filip Djuricic and Francesco Caputo quickly shook off an underwhelming opener and Domenico Berardi nailed a PK. Manuel Locatelli is already playing at an excellent level, but he is not so prone to picking up bonuses. As far as the full-backs go, where there is some potential, Rogerio is hurt and Grigoris Kyriakopoulos is not as impactful, while on the right Jeremy Toljan has so far played more than Mert Muldur, who is generally more exuberant, although a little unbridled.

Suggested picks: Caputo, Berardi, Djuricic.

Crotone: the Pitagorici could not keep up with Genoa and Milan in the first matches and the going will not get any easier here, also considering their injury problems, as it is manifest that they need Ahmad Benali’s playmaking and leadership in the midfield. The coach has kept Junior Messias there to have more offensive punch, but it is not the same thing. Denis Dragus got the start to replace Emmanuel Riviere up front and was sprightly, the main problem though is that their fulcrum Simy has yet to get going and most of their offense goes through him. Nicolò Zanellato and Luca Cigarini generally take more care of the dirty work in the midfield. They added Pedro Pereira and Arkadiusz Reca on the flanks last week: the latter figures to be a bigger factor when it comes to attacking, but Andrea Rispoli and Salvatore Molina, who already had an assist, are no slouches on that regard.

Suggested picks: Messias, Simy, Dragus.

UDINESE-ROMA

Udinese: the Zebrette lost the second game in a row, this time against the lowly Spezia, and once against struggled to come up with convincing offense. Kevin Lasagna missed a pair of chances like in the opener, but that was about it on open play. Stefano Okaka and Ilija Nestorovski have not had a much impact so far, while they are almost completely depleted in the midfield, where they were forced to field 18-year-old Martin Palumbo, on top of other youngster Mamadou Coulibaly. Roberto Pereyra could be a decent factor, but it is not certain he will be available for this one due to bureaucratic elements. Therefore, Rodrigo De Paul will remain almost the sole source of playmaking, even should he be forced to play again in front of the defence. Thomas Ouwejan looked pretty promising when he subbed in Wednesday, certainly more enticing that Marvin Zeegelaar.

Suggested picks: De Paul, Lasagna, Okaka. 

Roma: he missed a pair of sitters, but the Giallorossi inevitably looked much better with Edin Dzeko back in the lineup and his quality flick-ons and passes started up several interesting sorties against Juventus. Jordan Veretout cashed in, and also canned a PK, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan was denied by the goalie. The major development is that Paulo Fonseca kept Pedro in the formation and moved Lorenzo Pellegrini to the pivot position, where Amadou Diawara and Bryan Cristante generally play. Therefore, the Spaniard is set to be one of their main weapons, while the Italian midfielder loses some shine as he is more far away from the box, but his playmaking could come through anyway, especially in easier matches where they are expected to attack consistently, like this one. He notched nine assists last season. It is pretty strange that Mkhitaryan still has not scored since he had few tasty chances.

Suggested picks: Dzeko, Mkhitaryan, Pedro.

BENEVENTO-BOLOGNA

Benevento: the Sanniti have been surprisingly shoddy in the back to begin the season, although keeping up with Inter might be difficult for anybody. However, they have been more productive than expected on the other end and while the goals in the opener were rather fluky, two by Luca Caldirola, one by Gaetano Letizia, the output coming from Gianluca Caprari (brace) and Gianluca Lapadula (one assist) should be more sustainable. The two already looked in sync, even though Lapadula’s minutes are being monitored due to lack of fitness: Gabriele Moncini has not really grabbed the brass ring in relief and so Lapadula is set to lead the charge whenever healthy. They added Iago Falque earlier this week and he can be a big weapon if in good conditions, but he will have to beat out last year’s starter Roberto Insigne, who is a substantial part of their offense. Some rotation could lead to good minutes for Marco Sau, who had 13 goals last year. The two box-to-box have not been particularly involved in the offensive proceedings.

Suggested picks: Caprari, Lapadula, Insigne.

Bologna: the Felsinei broke through in the derby with Parma thanks to a magnificent Roberto Soriano (two goals, one assist), but they had shown interesting stuff late versus Milan as well, despite the poor result. They are among the most proactive and productive sides among the minnows. Andreas Skov Olsen and Rodrigo Palacio joined Soriano in the stat-sheet in the last game, which is not great news for Riccardo Orsolini, which seems to have a long-standing beef with coach Sinisa Mihajlovic that is trying to make his flourish, and Nicola Sansone, who has seen little playing time in the early going. Musa Barrow is likely due after few attempts in the first two matches. Aaron Hickey played great in his debut and might quickly unseat Mitchell Dijks at left-back, while Lorenzo De Silvestri is always a steady hand. Jerdy Schouten has been splendid so far, but his role is pretty defensive.

Suggested picks: Barrow, Soriano, Palacio.

PARMA-VERONA

Parma: as if things were not going badly enough for the Ducali, Roberto Inglese and Andreas Cornelius both picked up last-minute injuries before the last game and so they were forced to field a very light attack. Gervinho, who did not have his signature burst right after a small physical problem, and Yann Karamoh did not do the trick and Andrea Adorante is the only pure centre-forward left. Hernani scored, on a Gaston Brugman sly feed, but only because of a defensive blunder. The Brazilian midfielder had not hit the target last season despite often firing away from distance. They will indeed get back Jasmin Kurtic after a technicality kept him out for the second game in a row, so that should lift them a little since they were forced to field Jacopo Dezi in the previous game. He and Jasmin Kucka might be biggest threats than their strikers all things considered. They need reinforcements from the transfer market.

Suggested picks: Gervinho, Kurtic, Kucka.

Verona: the Scaligeri will never be the most explosive team, but they tend to find a way to get the job done, especially because their stifling defence allows them to pick up good results even when they do not shine offensively. Samuel Di Carmine subbed off and will be out this week, but Andrea Favilli bagged the game-winning goal, his first Serie A one. They are adding some pieces since Darko Lazovic was able to make an appearance, but Federico Dimarco was surely serviceable on the left flank, and Ebrima Colley fared well in limited minutes. Antonin Barak has strong upside used as attacking midfielder and Adrien Tameze has been very promising. With different protagonists, they are getting back to the formula that propelled them last season, aided by the playmaking of Miguel Veloso and Mattia Zaccagni.

Suggested picks: Favilli, Barak, Zaccagni.

MILAN-SPEZIA

Milan: the Rossoneri took care of busines against Crotone, with Franck Kessie converting a penalty kick and Brahim Diaz netting his first goal in the Peninsula. They have another easy match-up on tap, however they will be undermanned and likely spent because. Ante Rebic injured his elbow in the past game and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is iffy due to COVID-19. It will likely up to youngster Lorenzo Colombo to lead the attack, while Rafael Leao should be ready for more playing time with one more week of practice under his belt following a long quarantine. With all the absences, Hakan Calhanoglu will have an even bigger role and, while he has been great in Europa League, he has not found the target in Serie A play yet. Samu Castillejo and Alexis Saelemaekers will have to make to make their presence felt in the final third more and they could unleash Theo Hernandez to get a boost.

Suggested picks: Calhanoglu, Colombo, Castillejo.

Spezia: the Aquilotti confirmed to be a pesky team in the Udinese game, what was a little stunning was to see Andrej Galabinov being this effective (three goals) after he failed to reach the double digit in the last three years. Emmanuel Gyasi picked up an assist, while Daniele Verde was fairly bubbly down the right flank and he is more at ease there than Kevin Agudelo, but the latter can play in a number of spots. Matteo Ricci has already had an helper and a goal called back, while Giulio Maggiore and Paolo Bartolomei have been more subdued and they have yet to fully explore all the new additions to the midfield. Tommaso Pobega and Lucien Agoume could be pretty interesting, but the hierarchies have yet to fully take form and they might just roll with last year’s starters anyway.

Suggested picks: Galabinov, Gyasi, Verde. 

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Fantasy Serie A Gameweek Two Picks

Serie A returned in style last weekend and promises yet another matchday of exciting action, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta make their highly anticipated debut on Saturday against Torino. Inter will host Fiorentina in Saturday’s final game as Antonio Conte’s men look to pick up where they left off last season and emerge as title contenders.

Elsewhere, Roma takes on Juventus on Sunday and will be hoping to get their season back on track after their surprising forfeit to Hellas Verona.

Without further ado, here are your fantasy Serie A picks ahead of gameweek two:

Gianluigi Donnarumma: The Milan shot-stopper may have conceded twice against Bodo-Glimt, but he should be a safe pick ahead of the Rossoneri’s clash against the newly-promoted Crotone. Donnarumma kicked off the season in fine form against Bologna and will be looking to continue his good start against Crotone.

Achraf Hakimi: The former Borussia Dortmund man is available for a mere 4.5 million and should hit the ground running in Inter’s season opener. Hakimi is a match made in heaven for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will be looking to replicate last season’s impressive exploits in Italy. With Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez combining dangerously, expect the Moroccan international to fit right in at Inter.

Omar Colley: Sampdoria lost their season opener in convincing fashion against Juventus, but Colley was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance. The Blucerchiati will be welcoming Benevento to the Luigi Ferraris and should be good value for a clean sheet.

Kalidou Koulibaly: The Senegalese international ultimately remained at Napoli amidst heavy Premier League interest and should be a crucial piece to Gennaro Gattuso’s setup moving forward. Koulibaly will be eager to thwart Genoa’s momentum after I Grifoni emerged 4-1 winners over Crotone in their season opener.

Theo Hernandez: The former Real Madrid man was in sensational form against Bologna, registering his first assist of the season. Hernandez has established himself as one of Milan’s biggest offensive threats, getting forward at will down the left-hand side. Crotone has just conceded four against Genoa and shouldn’t find it easier against the Rossoneri.

Luis Alberto: The Spanish international is coming off his best season yet in a Lazio shirt and is great value for money at 4.5 million. Luis Alberto emerged as one of the league’s elite creators last season, forming a deadly partnership with Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi’s men will be eager to hit the ground running against Cagliari and expect Luis Alberto to be at the heart of it.

Aaron Ramsey: Ramsey struggled last season in Maurizio Sarri’s rigid 4-3-3, but looked reborn in Andrea Pirlo’s fluid system. The Welshman only registered one assist against Sampdoria, but had it not been for his teammates’ profligacy in front of goal, it could have been two or three. Expect Ramsey to continue his fine form against Roma.

Hakan Calhanoglu: The Turkish international has been at the heart of Milan’s resurgence under Stefano Pioli, carving out an important role for himself as the Rossoneri’s trequartista. Calhanoglu has combined his incredible vision with a keen eye for goal and has since become Milan’s difference-maker in the final third. The 26-year-old is coming off yet another influential performance and should continue his impressive run against Crotone.

Domenico Berardi: The Sassuolo winger got off to a disappointing start to the season against Cagliari, but should put his goalscoring woes behind him against Spezia. The Neroverdi’s dynamic front three has proven too much to handle for most of Italy’s backlines in the past and should have what it takes to claim an important three points against the newly-promoted outfit.

Ciro Immobile: Last season’s capocannoniere will be eager to repeat the feat once more, starting with Lazio’s opener against Cagliari. Immobile has proven to be a consistent goalscorer in league play in recent years and is always good value to find the back of the net. Alessio Cragno is one of Serie A’s best shot-stoppers, but Immobile and co. possess enough firepower to get the job done.

Victor Osimhen: The Nigerian international changed the complexion of his game shortly after his introduction and should feature from the start against Genoa. Osimhen will be raring to go after an impressive debut and should open his account for the season against I Grifoni.

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Three Bold Predictions Ahead of the New Season

The new Serie A season is officially upon us and is shaping up for another enthralling year of action. Juventus appear to be in a transtion year, but has bolstered their roster significantly already while Inter will be hoping to pip their rivals to the Scudetto after falling short last season.

Milan enters the new year confident as ever, having just secured two impressive young talents in Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz and will be hoping to return to the Champions League. The capital-based clubs,  Roma and Lazio, will duke it out once more and will be right there with Milan in the race for top four. The biggest question mark going into the new season remains Atalanta and whether they can replicate last season’s impressive exploits.

Without further ado, here are three bold predictions going into the new season:

Sassuolo to qualify for the Europa League: 

Roberto De Zerbi’s men finished last season on a high note and nearly cracked Italy’s top seven. Sassuolo has managed to keep its stars this offseason, notably Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga, and possess one of the league’s most underrated number nines in Ciccio’ Caputo. The Neroverdi also rebuffed Juve’s advances for Manuel Locatelli and will be going into the new season hoping their midfield dynamo can supply their high-powered front three.

De Zerbi has demonstrated he can get the most of Sassuolo’s roster and will be hoping to guide them into contention for the Europa League. The competition will be stiff considering Milan, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, and arguably Fiorentina will all be in the mix depending on their respective seasons, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say Sassuolo will qualify for the Europa League.

A Coppa Italia triumph counts!

Victor Osimhen as capocannoniere: 

Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo pushed each other to new heights in last season’s capocannoniere race but will have more company this time around. Napoli’s record signing Victor Osimhen is ready to take the next step in his career and lead the Partenopei’s line to devastating effect. The Nigerian international broke onto the scene last season with 17 goals in all competitions and will slot in seamlessly in Napoli’s dynamic frontline.

Immobile and Ronaldo relied heavily on penalties to inflate their scoring records last season, and one of them will likely slow down as a result. Osimhen is an outside bet for leading goalscorer, but given his skillset and Napoli’s counterattacking style, the former Lille man will have many scoring opportunities. Romelu Lukaku is another striker worth monitoring in this race but is a far safer bet in this respect.

Achraf Hakimi and Edin Dzeko to be tied for assists: 

Hakimi’s signing is one that takes Inter to the next level, as the Morrocan international will provide quality and a deadly final ball from a wingback position. Last season, the former Dortmund man registered an impressive ten assists and will look to translate his efforts in Conte’s 3-5-2.

Dzeko, on the other hand, is more known for his ability to find the back of the net, but evolved his game and has since emerged as an elite creator as well. The Bosnian international finished last season with 11 assists, indicating his playmaking threat. Dzeko is reportedly nearing a move to Juventus and will slot in wonderfully alongside Ronaldo, Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski.

Both Dzeko and Hakimi will be eager to replicate last season’s output and should be in a good position to do so. They may not top Luis Alberto or Papu Gomez’s tallies, but they will definitely be up there with Serie A’s deadliest creators.

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Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round One

Bologna: Gary Medel is suspended and is also recovering from a grade one strain in the semimembranosus muscle on the right thigh, therefore he could miss week two as well.

Cagliari: Luca Ceppitelli, Filip Bradaric and Kiril Despodov are quarantining after catching COVID-19 in late August. Gaston Pereiro suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in the right foot about two weeks ago and he has a 45-day timetable. Alessandro Deiola is recovering from a clean-up surgery on the right knee he had during his time at Lecce. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round One

FIORENTINA-TORINO

Fiorentina: despite not changing all that much, the Viola have brought in some new interesting pieces during the transfer market window, such as Sofyan Amrabat, who is suspended in this one, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi, who seems poised to stay after a solid season at Inter. However, their coach and attack are the same, which means we can expect something akin to what happened in the restart, where Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli served as the main playmakers, Federico Chiesa was the most consistent scorer, while Christian Kouame, Dusan Vlahovic and Patrick Cutrone, all capable but otherworldly strikers, fight for one spot. The ex-Genoa forward seems to have separated himself from the pack a little during the summer. Bonaventura is supremely sneaky.

Suggested picks: Chiesa, Ribery, Kouame. Continue reading

Scouting Report: Manuel Locatelli

Manuel Locatelli has adapted wonderfully to life under Roberto De Zerbi at Sassuolo and has since attracted interest from Italy’s giants, including Juventus. According to recent reports, however, the Neroverdi are reluctant to part ways with their midfield maestro and have slapped a 40 million euros price-tag on Locatelli. But who exactly is the Sassuolo man?

Player profile:

Age: 22

Position: Centre midfielder

Height: 185 cm

Nationality: Italy

Locatelli has emerged as one of Italy’s premier talents this season, dominating the proceedings in the middle of the park. Despite his imposing physique, the former Milan man is extremely technical and thrives with the ball at his feet. Locatelli combines a wide range of passing with impressive vision and has since established himself as one of Serie A’s finest registas. The 22-year-old has regularly proven to be a willing runner in the midfield and is unafraid to jump into a tackle.

In fact, Locatelli was recently called up by Roberto Mancini to Italy’s senior national team setup, rewarding his good season at Sassuolo. Locatelli initially came through Milan’s youth ranks, breaking into the first team in 2016. The 22-year-old spent three years with the Rossoneri, making 48 appearances before being loaned out to Sassuolo.

His move to Sassuolo helped Locatelli get his career back on track and develop into one of Italy’s finest midfielders. Roberto De Zerbi’s possession-based system has undoubtedly helped him in this respect and makes the most of Locatelli’s qualities. The former Milan man averaged an impressive 88% pass completion percentage last season and registered five assists, indicating he’s slowly adding end product to his game. In addition, Locatelli averaged 1.5 key passes per game last season and combined wonderfully with Sassuolo’s dynamic front three.

Jeremie Boga, Francesco Caputo, and Domenico Berardi formed one of the league’s deadliest frontlines last season, interchanging dangerously at will in the final third. With Locatelli and Pedro Obiang behind them, the Neroverdi emerged as one of Italy’s most intriguing sides, imposing their style of play wherever they went. As next season approaches, Sassuolo will be eager to retain their star men, especially Locatelli.

Locatelli has played an integral role in their recent rise, acting as the anchor in midfield. While the links to Italy’s giants persist, it will be interesting to see if the former Milan man will take the leap. If his recent form is anything to go by, however, Locatelli has proven he has all the qualities to do so and carve an important role out for himself at his future club.

Juventus have reportedly been keeping tabs on the 22-year-old and have had several meetings with Sassuolo. The Bianconeri are currently in the midst of rejuvenating their midfield, adding the likes of Weston McKennie and Arthur. Locatelli’s arrival would represent a continued shift in transfer policy for the Italian champions, highlighting their desire to revolutionize their ageing roster and reduce the wage bill.

While Locatelli may not be ready for a starting role with Andrea Pirlo’s men, the Sassuolo man is more than ready to play significant minutes and offer some much-needed quality in the midfield. Juventus struggled last season in the middle of the park and could use a midfielder of Locatelli’s ilk.

Locatelli’s recent call-up indicates he’s ready to take the next step in his career and become a regular with Gli Azzurri. The midfielder has represented Italy across all youth levels and has demonstrated he can cut it at the highest level. As a move to Juventus beckons, Locatelli will be eager to translate his recent form with Sassuolo to a bigger club and keep establishing himself as one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders.

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Serie A Fantasy Player of the Month in July – Hakan Calhanoglu

As predictable, several Serie A contributors made the EFL Team of the Month in July, as the Italian League finished late and had more rounds than the other ones across the continent. There are some expected names such as Sassuolo’s stars Francesco Caputo (31 points) and Domenico Berardi (24 points), who have been lights out in last 30 days, and some odd ones, like Inter’s Danilo D’Ambrosio (29 points), who benefitted from few clean sheets on top of scoring, and Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic (24 points), who amassed almost his rntire haul thanks to a hat-trick. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 38 – Sunday Games

SPAL-FIORENTINA

SPAL: they were thumped early against Verona and failed to generate any semblance of offense, interrupting a mini-streak of consecutive matches where they had managed to score. Their agony will finally end here after a terrible season. Marco D’Alessandro has been their best player in the resumption, while Andrea Petagna and Gabriel Strefezza were the most reliable ones in the first part of the season. Mattia Valoti and Federico Di Francesco came back from their injuries and they could be worth a flier-

Suggested picks: D’Alessandro, Petagna, Valoti. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 35

ATALANTA-BOLOGNA

Atalanta: they were stymied a bit by their mini clones of Verona, but Duvan Zapata still came through, scoring for the third game in a row, and they had few chances to win it especially with Mario Pasalic, who was coming off a hat-trick. Ruslan Malinovskyi was not as effective in the Josip Ilicic’s role, while he had shined as pure no.10, in lieu of Alejandro Gomez, and that is something to monitor because El Papu does not rest often, while Ilicic is in poor conditions and will be managed cautiously. Luis Muriel might be a better candidate for that spot, while Pasalic is always very involved offensively whenever he is fielded. No doubts on the flanks this round around since Hans Hateboer is suspended and both Robin Gosens and Timothy Castagne are strong options.

Suggested picks: Zapata, Gomez, Muriel. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 34

VERONA-ATALANTA

Verona: after a consistent stretch with a pure striker up front, Ivan Juric went back to a false-nine, Valerio Verre in this case, against Roma, but the results were not that great, with the second half push coming on the heels of the subs. The returns from injury of Fabio Borini, Eddie Salcedo and Valentin Eysseric will allow the coach to go that route more often, especially against top teams, although Samuel Di Carmine has been decently effective (three goals in the last six games). Mattia Pessina scored again and he has separated himself from their slew of attacking midfielders, while Mattia Zaccagni picked up the assist. Darko Lazovic has been their most consistent player.

Suggested picks: Pessina, Lazovic, Borini. Continue reading