Inter go 11 points clear of Milan with 9 games to go

Surely the Serie A title will be Inter’s now after they pulled 11 points clear at the top. Milan could only draw 1-1 at home to Sampdoria and Inter won at the weekend and then followed that up with their 22nd win of the season on Wednesday evening when they beat Sassuolo 2-1. Inter have won their last 10 games in a row and have simply been fantastic this season- and they will be deserved champions it seems.

Let’s take a recap on Inter’s last 2 games in the league.

This past weekend Inter played Bologna away from home in what is never an easy game for any club in the league. Bologna are in 11th place but have always made it tricky for teams visiting and they did so once again for the champions elect. In the end it took a solo effort from Romelu Lukaku to settle the game just after the half hour mark. Lukaku.

Inter were technically the better side but Bologna had their chances although they did go quieter in the 2nd half. It was Lukaku’s goal that won the game in a 1-0 win and it was Lukaku’s 20th goal of the season as he tries to catch up with Cristiano Ronaldo. It was hardly a vintage performance from Inter, but it’s all about those 3 points and they were able to achieve that at the weekend.

In midweek Inter played Sassuolo this was a game that was originally scheduled a few weeks ago but a Covid outbreak in the Inter side put paid to that and so it had to be carried over. Inter won the game 2-1 through the usual suspects of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Lukaku opened the scoring after just 10 minutes after a cross by Ashley Young, Lukaku sweetly headed the ball in. It was a first half in which Inter played good football and looked like the better team and they went in 1-0 up at half time.

Inter doubled their lead half way through the second half when Lukaku broke clear and played the ball to Martinez who made no mistake in scoring his 15th league goal of the season. However just before that break Sassuolo really should have been awarded a penalty. Indeed the away side got the better of Inter in the 2nd half and were much the better side and were unlucky to have not at least drawn the game in the end, even though they were able to pull a goal back with five minutes to go.

Inter coach Antonio Conte had this to say after Inter’s latest victory, “We had to become more determined, more focused in every situation, as well as more resilient. There are games like today where we can be up against teams with no pressure and if we are more clinical, we can score five or six goals. Sassuolo kept it open to the end, even if they scored only when Milan Skriniar was off the field. I congratulate Sassuolo, as they came here to play their game and this performance shows how much we’ve grown. With this attitude, we’d still be in the Champions League.”

This weekend Inter will play 18th placed Cagliari at home and will be the favourites to win that one, although the away side are battling relegation, though they haven’t won a game in over 5 weeks.

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Inter head towards Serie A title without kicking a ball as Juventus stall

Inter did not play at the weekend as their game with Sassuolo had to be called off because of a recent outbreak of Covid-19 within the Inter squad. After tests on Monday it was revealed that Inter now has a clean bill of health but the game had to be postponed as a measure of safety.

There would be good news and bad news for Antonio Conte’s side this week. With no game they could sit back and watch how Milan and Juventus fared, the only two clubs now who could take the Serie A title away from them.

Milan looked like they were going to draw away to Fiorentina but they won 3-2 in a thrilling game and that was the disappointing news of the weekend as Milan are now just six points behind. However of course Inter has an extra game to play. But the great news from Inter’s perspective was that Juventus lost.

It was the Old Lady’s 4th loss of the season and it was a shock as it came at home to Benevento in a game that finished 1-0. Juve had 23 goal attempts and Benevento only had 1 shot on target for the goal the whole game. Media in Italy have said that’s it for Juventus and their title chances and the club has now fallen 10 points behind Inter and played the same games.

The postponement of the Sassuolo game means that Inter will have had a 3 week break until their next game which is against Bologna away from home. Although all of Inter’s players will be involved in the up and coming international matches over the next 10 days or so.

Best performing players for Inter

Let’s take a look at the best performing players for Inter so far as they try to win an historic league title. We will look at the best positions.

Goalkeeper: Samir Handanovic 51 pts

Samir Handanovic has been the regular goal keeper and has started 27 games keeping 10 clean sheets. He has managed to keep clean sheets on 37% of his appearances so far. He is currently the number 1 ranked goalkeeper in Italy and overall ranks in at number 9 over Europe’s major leagues. Three from his last five games has seen the shot stopper keep clean sheets.

Defender: Achraf Hakimi 63pts

Hakimi is 8 points ahead of the next Inter defender Milan Skriniar. Hakimi reminds one of an all round player much like the Real Madrid great and indeed former Inter player Roberto Carlos in that he isn’t afraid to come forward and score goals. His stats are fantastic and Hakimi has been involved in 10 goals in the league so far scoring six times. His value is just 7m and he has been one of the best players in Serie A this season.

Midfielder: Nicolo Barella 38pts

For all of Inter’s greatness this season it has to be said that their midfield talent at least for obtaining points has not been their strongest. Still Nicolo Barella has had great moments this season. He isn’t ahead on the most assists but he has still set up 5 goals and he has also scored a further three. His value is 7m.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku 88pts

Some people will claim that Romelu Lukaku has stiff competition as Inter’s best striker from Lautaro Martinez but that simply isn’t true. While Martinez is a brilliant striker and will get even better at this moment Lukaku is Inter’s number 1 and there can’t be any doubts about that. Lukaku is currently 23 points ahead of Martinez and has scored 5 goals more and has 19 currently. He has also assisted in a further 8 goals and is simply having his best season as a professional player. Lukaku ranks 2nd in Italy behind Cristiano Ronaldo and overall ranks in at 4th. His value is 10.5m.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 26 – Early Games

SPEZIA-BENEVENTO

Spezia: they produced a solid effort for about an hour in the Juventus match, then the home team took over and left the in the dust. Andrej Galabinov missed a late PK, likely squandering his remaining slim chances to overtaking M’Bala Nzola and Kevin Agudelo for the center-forward spot. Agudelo did not feature midweek so he will probably get the nod here, while the Frenchman has not look explosive after his injury, but it should be just a matter of time given his early stellar production. Emmanuel Gyasi (four goals, four assists) has gotten the most run out of the supporting cast and he has been solid, while Daniele Verde has been exuberant coming off the bench in the past two, but he has fully been handed over the keys on the wing yet. Diego Farias is also in the mix, but he too is trying to re-find his footing after an injury. Since Tommaso Pobega is banged up, Giulio Maggiore has been their most proactive midfielder, while Nahuel Estevez, Matteo Ricci and Leo Sena, who has gotten good minutes in the past two games, are pretty decent but not as dangerous. Ricci, like Simone Bastoni at left-back, has been able to notch some helpers. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23 – Early Matches

FIORENTINA-SPEZIA

Fiorentina: to nobody’s surprise, Dusan Vlahovic was again Fiorentina’s lone scorer in the past round, notching his seventh goal in the past 11 rounds. Franck Ribery was ruled out late and replaced by Christian Kouame, who had a decent but unfruitful display. With the Freshman still sidelined, that spot is up for grabs between Kouame, Valentin Eysseric and Jose Maria Callejon as neither has really separated himself from the pack. Kouame is the one with the highest break-out potential. Giacomo Bonaventura is coming on as he has posted one goal and one assist in the past four rounds, while Gaetano Castrovilli is continuing his disappearing act even though they rely on him a lot. Cristiano Biraghi (one goal, four helpers) has been a nice weapon throughout the season but he has not picked up bonuses in a long while. Kevin Malcuit and Aleksandar Kokorin would have some value if the coach decided to give him good minutes as they are in dire need of an offensive spark. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 22 – Remaining Games

BOLOGNA-BENEVENTO

Bologna: the time and effort put into turning Musa Barrow into a striker is starting to pay off as the youngster resurfaced after some quiet rounds with a clinical brace versus Parma. He now has five goals in the season. The move is working out also because Nicola Sansone has been very solid out on the left wing after shaking off an injury and he is coming off his best outing of the season as he dished two assist last week. Roberto Soriano (six goals, five helpers) also picked up offensive bonuses after a while as he set up Riccardo Orsolini, who came off the bench but still delivered. He is clearly on the rise as he has hit the net twice in the last four matches, on top of furnishing strong performances. Nicolas Dominguez should have an increased role with Mattias Svanberg suspended and Takehiro Tomiyasu is worth a flier now that it looks like he is going to stay at right-back. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21 – Early Games

FIORENTINA-INTER

Fiorentina: the news for them is that somebody not named Dusan Vlahovic managed to hit the net, as Franck Ribery bagged his first goal of the season with a pretty play against Torino. The Frenchman had indeed started to show better recently: he also has four assists in the season, but he has had an hiccup in practice, which could allow Jose Callejon or Christian Kouame to get the nod in this one. Giacomo Bonaventura has been their only other scorer in recent games and he showed up versus Torino with an assist, thus picking up bonuses in two matches in a row. His role will be bigger due to the suspension of Gaetano Castrovilli. Erick Pulgar, who is first in line to replace the teammate, has some value due to PK duties, but he has not done much this year, while Sofyan Amrabat could move to a more dynamic position. Cristiano Biraghi is a secondary option as he has tallied one goal and four assists thus far. Their defense has been quite stingy but the match-up is complicated. Continue reading

Locatelli, Pogba, and the midfielders Juventus should be targeting

Juventus may be coming off a triumph in the Italian Supercup, but the Italian champions are in serious danger of relinquishing their stranglehold over Serie A. Milan and Inter have run away with it in the first half of the season, with the Bianconeri trailing Stefano Pioli’s side by 10 points already. As the second half of the season approaches, Juve’s midfield woes have become more apparent.

Manuel Locatelli has been heavily linked with a move to Turin, reuniting him with his idol Andrea Pirlo. The Sassuolo midfielder has taken Italian football by storm this season, establishing himself as one of the league’s elite deep-lying playmakers. In many ways, Locatelli is exactly the type of profile Juventus lack in the middle of the park. Comfortable in possession, the Italian international would be a significant upgrade on Rodrigo Bentancur and could slot in nicely next to Arthur. His 40M euro price-tag will seem like a bargain in 2 years time.

Beyond Locatelli, Juventus is reportedly interested in a sensational swoop for Paul Pogba. Mino Raiola – the Frenchman’s agent – sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world when he claimed his client was on the market come the summertime. Pogba allegedly would appreciate a move back to Italy, where he has played the best football of his career. The major stumbling block, however, is his pricetag as he won’t come cheap. Manchester United will, at the very least, be seeking to break even on the midfielder, demanding well over 100 million euros.

Other than the increased price-tag, it will be interesting to see where the World Cup winner would slot in Pirlo’s system. Pogba does not thrive in a double pivot and may just be an awkward fit between the lines alla Aaron Ramsey. Juve should think twice before pulling the trigger and ask themselves whether they have what it takes to accomadate the French international.

If finances are tight, Juve can always shift its focus to Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul. The Argentine midfielder is crying out for a move to a bigger club and is more than ready for the step up. De Paul is arguably the best fit for Pirlo’s Juve, given his ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker or roam between the lines. The Udinese man would walk directly into Juve’s starting 11, usurping Aaron Ramsey in the trequartista role. De Paul boasts an impressive engine and is versatile enough for Pirlo’s hybrid 4-4-2/3-5-2 formation.

The final option for the Bianconeri is Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. Juventus has been heavily linked with a move for the French midfielder in the past and could just return for him this summer. A dynamic midfielder by trade, Aouar has all the tools to emerge as a bonafide creative threat for Pirlo’s Juve. At just 22 years old, the midfielder has his entire career ahead of him and would make for an excellent fit in Turin. Aouar thrives when tasked with linking up the midfield and the attack and has even shown he can play in a double pivot.

Fabio Paratici often says it is incredibly difficult to improve on Juve’s current roster, but the reality is, any of these midfielders would become starters in the side’s current setup. While a Pogba reunion may steal the headlines, Locatelli and De Paul are arguably the better fits and would come cheaper. Given Juve’s working relationship with Sassuolo and Udinese, the Italian champions can negotiate a crafty deal for both midfielders, without sacrificing the club’s finances. Aouar remains an interesting option should either midfielder become unavailable, but the next step for Juve is ridding itself of its deadwood.

Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot, and Rodrigo Bentancur have all shown glimpses of their potential, but are the furthest thing from consistent. Only once these midfielders are sold can Juve begin dreaming of De Paul and Locatelli.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Top Matches

MILAN-ATALANTA

Milan: the Rossoneri keep navigating their several absences in brilliant fashion and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to the XI with a bang in Cagliari, putting together a brace and moving to 12 goals in the season in just eight appearances. The COVID outbreak is getting resolved as Rade Krunic and Ante Rebic tested negative, but their conditioning will have to be assessed in practice and Theo Hernandez was a false positive, so only Hakan Calhanoglu is out, which is a major loss, but at least they are in a better spot numerically and they recovered their stud fullback. Rafael Leao (three goals, one assist in the last five games) will be back from suspension and will likely supplant Jens Petter Hauge that has been pretty quiet despite seeing good minutes. Franck Kessie let Zlatan take the PK in the past game but he will probably re-gain those duties in this one: he has notched six goals and two assists in the season. Davide Calabria is trending up as he provided a great helper in the past game and also hit the net recently.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 18 – Remaining Games

BOLOGNA-VERONA

Bologna: they could not find a way around the not-so-vaunted Genoa rearguard in the past match, with their attack failing to deliver for the fourth game in a row, given that their recent goals have come from Takehiro Tomiyasu (two), Nehuen Paz and Matthias Svanberg. Roberto Soriano, one of the early fantasy leaders, has found the target just once in the seven matches and has not been able to dish helpers either in that stretch, however he remains the top players in both categories (six/four). The other attackers have instead been able to take part in the teammate’s goals, Riccardo Orsolini in particular with two recent assists, but also Musa Barrow and Rodrigo Palacio, but they obviously need to start scoring to become real fantasy assets. As always, Barrow is the biggest threat, but they will face a really stifling defense in this one. Emanuel Vignato and Andreas Skov Olsen have not exploited their recent minutes. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16 – Top Matches

CROTONE-ROMA

Crotone: they tried to keep up with Inter on Sunday thanks to the first goals in Serie A of Niccolò Zanellato and Vladimir Golemic, but they ultimately ended up being overwhelmed. Junior Messias showed up with an assist, his first one, while he has found the target five times. Emmanuel Riviere is taking playing time away from Simy, but neither has been very prolific or really dangerous. Given the role, it is unlikely that Zanellato will turn into a fantasy weapon: in the midfield Salvatore Molina (one goal, four assists) and Milos Vulic surely have more value, while left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal and five helpers) has been a valuable reference point on the flank. Continue reading