Paul Pogba or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Who would you take?

After his most recent man-of-the-match performance against Inter, Sergej Milinkovic Savic is drawing comparisons to Europe’s elite midfielders and rightfully so. Many are even making the case that the 24-year-old is the best midfielder in the league right now. After all, the Serbian international is as well-rounded as they come. He can score goals, he dominates aerial duels both in his own half and in the final third and is slick in possession.

It’s since been reported that Italy’s elite are queuing up for the Lazio man, including the likes of Juventus and Inter. Whether Lazio will sell the player is a completely different story; especially if they go on to win the Scudetto.

It’s also recently been reported that Paul Pogba is on his way out of Manchester United and will be available this summer. His agent, the infamous Mino Raiola, is currently hard at work and is trying his best at wedging himself between his client and the club. Considering both are of similar age and will command the same price, which player would you go with? Let’s have a look.

Both players are similar in the sense that they operate best from a mezz’ala role, and enjoy making late runs into the back post, where they can use their physical presence to create space. In addition to their aerial prowess, both Pogba and Milinkovic-Savic are equally capable at firing from range and don’t have to be asked twice to shoot. When it comes to scoring goals, however, I might have to give the Frenchman the slight advantage. Pogba has demonstrated more consistency in this respect over the years.

Defensively, it’s another close call as both players are increasingly involved in their own third, be it through tackles and interceptions. While Pogba has improved in this respect in recent seasons and has become defensively responsible, Milinkovic-Savic currently has the upper hand. The Lazio man is currently averaging 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, and makes his presence felt inside his eighteen-yard box. Advantage SMS.

Beyond preventing goals, creating them is equally important. In this respect, Pogba is the more accomplished player. Milinkovic-Savic possesses a great range of passing himself, but the Manchester United man simply creates more chances; chances that translate into goals. Last season, Pogba registered ten assists in all competitions and he regularly leads his side in this regard. While Milinkovic-Savic is slowly developing this facet to his game, as illustrated through his four assists this season, he still lags behind the Frenchman when it comes to end-product. Point, Pogba.

All in all, if they’re both available for similar prices, I’d probably take Pogba and even then, it’s too close to call. In my opinion, he’s the better goalscorer and creator and is equally dominant in the air. Wages, agent fees, and availability come into play, but any team looking to bolster their midfield have no choice but to take a flyer on these two.

Now have your say: Who would you take on your team?

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 24

SPAL-Juventus: Luigi Di Biagio devised a new system in his debut, arraying his men with a 4-3-3. While they failed to get the win, they attacked more than usual and Andrea Petagna bagged the ninth goal of his campaign. Federico Di Francesco has always been playing in very offensive role, but he is more comfortable out wide and the trident was completed by Mattia Valoti in that case, although Gabriel Strefezza will have his chances too. The duo gets a bump thanks to the coaching change, likewise Mirko Valdifiori, who resurfaced and can be a decent weapon on set pieces, as a matter of fact he picked up an assist with a corner kick. Simone Missiroli is back at box-to-box like earlier in his career, joining the sneaky Lucas Castro. On the downside, Arkadiusz Reca, and Mohamed Fares when he will be ready, will feature as fullback, so few meters behind what they were accustomed to doing. Scoring has been one of their main issues so far, as they have no reliable contributors behind Petagna. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Lazio vs Inter

Lazio-Inter was the most anticipated match going into round 24: it was pretty tight but still had a decent amount of action, so it takes home the shout-out in combination with its potentially huge significance in the title race.

The Biancocelesti were handed their last loss in the first meeting between the two sides back in September and then proceeded to go on a still ongoing terrific run, although they had slowed down a bit lately with two draws in the past four contests. The Nerazzurri were instead coming off two Ws, the first versus Udinese and then a crazy one in the Derby. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 24

Standings implications: Lazio emerged victorious in the crunch game with Inter, thus surpassing the Nerazzurri in second position and staying one point behind Juventus, which did their job versus Brescia. Roma put up a fight in Bergamo, but Atalanta still rallied back and took home a monumental victory in the Champions League race as they have built a six-point lead over the direct rival.

Parma re-entered the conversation for the sixth spot by railroading Sassuolo and caught Verona in the standings, then Milan answered on Monday night. The Scaligeri and Udinese did not get in the way of the respective targets with a nil-nil tie, but it will not be long before the Zebrette will have to resume watching underneath them. Genoa and Lecce continue streaking by toppling Bologna and SPAL, putting all the other relegation zone competitors in high alert, especially Sampdoria, which were trounced by Fiorentina and are now in 17th position, so sandwiched between the two.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23

Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading

Lazio-SPAL: Team news, stats, and prediction

Following 11 straight wins in Serie A, Lazio shared the spoils in the Derby Della Capitale this past weekend but will be looking to return to winning ways against SPAL. Earlier in the season, SPAL beat the biancocelesti comfortably. Will Inzaghi’s men fare better in match-day 22?

Against Roma, Lazio looked off the pace and quite frankly, were fortunate to avoid defeat. Had it not been for an uncharacteristic error from Pau Lopez, Inzaghi’s men were heading for their first loss in sixteen Serie A clashes. Prior to their draw with their fierce rivals, Lazio lost to Napoli in the Coppa Italia, indicating a down-turn in form may be on the cards for the capital-based outfit.

Despite this, Lazio are going into this one with all their starters while the same cannot be said about SPAL. Without further ado, let’s look at the latest team news.

TEAM NEWS

Much like it was the case against Roma, Lazio are expected to be a full strength against SPAL. However, one question mark remains in their starting eleven. Currently, Joaquin Correa’s condition is being monitored and may not feature from the start. Towering forward Felipe Caicedo would step in to replace the Argentine striker.

Beyond that, Inzaghi is expected to name an unchanged lineup with Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic flanking Lucas Leiva in the midfield. As usual, Acerbi will be joined by Radu and Luiz Felipe in defence. Marusic, Cataldi and Lukaku all miss out through injury.

SPAL will mirror Lazio’s 3-5-2 setup, but will have to make do without talisman and newly-acquired Napoli man Andrea Petagna, who’s suspended. Floccari is expected to take his place alongside Di Francesco. Mohamed Fares will miss out once more due to injury while former Lazio midfielder Alessandro Murgia is expected to feature from the start against his former employers.

In addition to Petagna, Mattia Valoti is suspended and will miss this clash. Marco D’Alessandro is also expected to miss this game through injury.

Probable XI’s:

Lazio (3-5-2): Strakosha; Felipe Luiz, Acerbi, Radu; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto, Lulic; Caicedo, Immobile.

SPAL (3-5-2): Berisha; Tomovic, Vicari, Bonifazi; Strefezza, Dabo, Missiroli, Murgia, Reca; Floccari, Di Francesco.

STATS

- Lazio have scored three goals in their last seven of eight home games.

- Lazio have won their last six Serie A home games.

- In their last six clashes against each other, Lazio have won 3, SPAL have emerged victorious twice and they’ve shared the spoils once.

PREDICTION

With Lazio chasing Juventus and Inter closely, I don’t expect them to drop points against SPAL, especially considering their impressive home record and run of form as of late. While SPAL proved they can get the better of the biancocelesti earlier in the season, Andrea Petagna is a big absence and will likely prove to be the difference in this one. Given Lazio’s firepower and SPAL’s injuries and suspensions to key players, this game is only going to finish one way. With a Lazio win, that is.

Lazio-SPAL: 3-1

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Lazio have turned defence from weakness to strength – so what has changed?

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Nobody saw it coming, but perhaps that’s why they should have.

The Rome Derby has a well-earned reputation for upsetting the odds and ignoring the form book, and the fixture provided more evidence of why last weekend.

Lazio went into the game on a club record 11-game winning run, while their injury-ravaged rivals had started the new year with three defeats in five games.

But the Giallorossi dominated from start to finish, bossing possession, creating chances and coming away from a 1-1 draw wondering how they had failed to claim three points.

Fingers were understandably pointed at the Roma attack for a lack of cutting edge, as they relied on an error from Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha to find the net at all, before Pau Lopez replied with an even worse howler of his own. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Derby della Capitale

Napoli-Juventus was likely a little more intense and significant, but it already got extensive coverage in another column, so the nod for match of the round goes to the Derby between Roma and Lazio, which was not exactly one of the ages but always carries gargantuan magnitude.

La Lupa came into the match looking to build on last week’s easy win over Genoa, which had interrupted a two-game slump, while the Eagles were riding a 11-match winning streak that had commenced back in late October. They were coming off a rout against Sampdoria. Continue reading

Five big questions facing Lazio and Roma ahead of a momentous Rome Derby

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The biggest fixture on the Roman football calendar returns on Sunday, when Roma look to close the gap on their high-flying neighbours Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

But what are the major talking points?

1. How will Lazio cope with the favourites tag?

Derby matches are synonymous with clichés about the ‘form book going out the window’, but the Roman version has helped prove that adage to be true over the years.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of the team in worse form winning the Derby della Capitale, but rarely has the gap between the two sides’ form been as pronounced as it is going into Sunday’s meeting. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 20

Lazio-Sampdoria: despite a fairly muted performance, the Biancocelesti came out on top versus Napoli last week, for the second week in a row propelled by a late Ciro Immobile goal. The capocannoniere keeps producing and has already reached the 20-goal threshold. He has scored their last three goals. Joaquin Correa will be limited, so Felipe Caicedo might get another chance to start and he has posted three goals and two assists in limited action in the last five appearances. Luis Alberto will be looking to pad his assist numbers (12), while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has reverted back to his less efficient self after a hot stretch. Senad Lulic will be suspended, so Jony is set to play on the left wing and he is a willing crosser. The Eagles have been airtight at home. Continue reading