Four Takeaways From Napoli’s Draw with Torino

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For the second week in a row, Napoli dominate the opposition and create the bulk of the chances, yet fail to capitalize as they were forced to settle with another 0-0 draw at home versus Torino Sunday evening.

With the Partenopei dropping four points over these previous two matchdays, they are now -13 from league leaders Juventus who basically have the Scudetto in the bag.

Here are four takeaways from the Partenopei’s scoreless stalemate. Continue reading

Napoli’s Alex Meret is back on the goalkeeping radar in Europe

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When teenage sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma overthrew Diego Lopez as AC Milan’s undisputed number one keeper back in 2016, and was tipped as the heir to heralded champion Gianluigi Buffon’s Azzurri throne, many other young shot-stoppers in Italy’s talent factory fell by the wayside.

Despite the long lineage of developing top keepers and track record of producing in both quality and quantity, the Mino Raiola-represented star seemed to be a notch above the rest the country’s domestic talent. But in 2017, it was Italy U-17 goalkeeping coach Fabrizio Ferron’s bold affirmation of another from Udine as being technically superior to the Rossoneri phenomenon ushering another into the conversation for the peninsula’s top goalkeeping talent. Continue reading

Four Takeaways from Fiorentina’s Scoreless Draw with Napoli

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By no means was it a simple task, nor the ideal route to a result Stefano Pioli drew up, but Fiorentina managed to snag a hard-earned point at the Franchi from Saturday’s encounter with Napoli.

The Partenopei were perhaps the better side on the evening, winning the possession battle (60% to 40%) and showing a bit more going forward that led many to believe they’d leave Florence victorious. But the lack of an end product and clinical touch to finish off counter attacks were ultimately the difference between a road victory and having to settle for the point.

Here are four takeaways from Fiorentina vs Napoli. Continue reading

What to Watch for: Fiorentina vs Napoli

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Off the back of a 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Udinese, Stefano Pioli’s Fiorentina look to return to winning ways as they play host to second-place Napoli at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday.

Unlike the Partenopei who sit cozy in second with an 11-point advantage over Inter, the Viola are currently playing catch-up in the heated race for 4th and have their work cut out, trailing the likes of Lazio, Milan, Atalanta, Roma and Sampdoria.

Napoli managed to trim the deficit between them and Juventus back down to single digits last weekend with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria, and hope to narrow the gap even more at the Franchi – confines proving not so friendly for Fiorentina.

Here are five things to watch for in Fiorentina vs Napoli. Continue reading

Marek Hamsik’s curtain call opens the door for Amadou Diawara at Napoli

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Bombshell transfer news struck post-match of Napoli’s 3-0 win over Sampdoria at the Stadio San Paolo as Carlo Ancelotti revealed to the media “talks are in progress over a potential move” for Slovakian Marek Hamsik.

The eyebrow-raising Italian boss went on further to explain the Partenopei “will work to satisfy his wishes,” but according to Sky Sport’s Gianluca Di Marzio, it seems like president Aurelio de Laurentiis has already.

Di Marzio has reported the 31-year old, who has been a folklore hero in Naples for 12 years and is the club’s all-time leader in goals and appearances, will join Chinese outfit Dalian Yifeng for a fee of €15 million. He is expected to earn €9 million per season under a new three-year contract. Continue reading

What to Watch For: Napoli vs Sampdoria

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Another week, another enthralling round of Serie A fixtures beckons for calcio fans, none more intriguing and jam packed with storylines than Napoli vs Sampdoria at the San Paolo.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Partenopei look to rebound after bowing out of the Coppa Italia midweek at the hands of Krzysztof Piatek and Milan, while Marco Giampaolo’s Samp look to climb closer to 4th place in the league table.

With all of this in mind, here is what you should be watching for in Napoli vs Sampdoria on Saturday: Continue reading

Four Takeaways From Napoli’s 0-0 Stalemate with Milan

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Familiar faces met yet again last night at the San Siro as Gennaro Gattuso and his mentor Carlo Ancelotti squared off in a clash between Milan and Napoli.

The first half of action saw the Rossoneri assert themselves and threaten to go ahead, while the visitors swung momentum in their favor after the break only to see several attempts go awry.

In the end, the two played to a 0-0 draw. Here are four takeaways from the Partenopei’s stalemate in Milano: Continue reading

Inzaghi looks to mark Lazio landmark by lifting Napoli curse

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You can’t escape a creeping feeling of positivity in Rome right now.

The turn of the year has refreshed the flagging optimism of some fans, the sun has begun to emerge from hibernation and the return of Serie A is just around the corner.

Additionally, Lazio’s 4-1 win over Novara last weekend secured the Roman club a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter and saw the likes of Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic show further hints that they are finally returning to their best form.

The transfer market has opened and sporting director Igli Tare has started to deliver on his vow to trim the squad down to size, finding loan moves for three promising youngsters in need of game time as Joseph Minala returned to Salernitana and Venezia brought in both Alessandro Rossi and Cristiano Lombardi. Continue reading

Pole Position: How Krzysztof Piątek Has Landed In The Driver’s Seat of Milan’s Mercato Plans

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Nearly six months removed from plying his trade in Poland with first division Ekstraklasa outfit Cracovia, Krzysztof Piątek has taken to Italian soil and calcio like a duck to water by virtue of an all-out goalscoring outburst with Genoa.

An absolute bargain at €4m with 13 Serie A goals (19 goals bagged in 21 total appearances for the Rossoblu since his under-the-radar transfer to the Marassi), Piątek trails only extraterrestrial superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo for the capocannoniere.

From Kraków to Genoa, in a matter of months, all eyes have become fixated on what the 23-year old is accomplishing on a weekly basis in Italy’s top flight, thus causing quite the stir amongst European powers in search of his striking talents; Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan are among the many suitors to have been linked with the Pole as early as October.

Last summer, Argentina star Gonzalo Higuain was sacrificed by the Bianconeri to make room for Ronaldo, paving the way for the ex-Napoli bomber to the San Siro as Milan’s solution to their crisis up front. But, in a matter of weeks, with the visibly disgruntled number nine’s status turned sour, the Juventus loanee appears closer to Chelsea with one foot out the door towards a reunion tour with Maurizio Sarri. As a result, the Rossoneri braintrust have turned to familiar business partner, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi, for Higuain’s replacement in the white-hot Piątek.

Make no mistakes about it, Piątek‘s first six months couldn’t have gone smoother as the trending attacker sits in Pole position of the UCL hopefuls mercato plans. But, the questions on everyone‘s mind as his move begins to materialize are: is Milan jumping the gun on the pistol-shooting forward, and is he ready for the famous red and black shirt?

By the looks of the rumor mill, Preziosi has slapped an approximate price tag of €40-45m on his Polish asset. Considering the slim market for strikers, this is hardly a surprising request when accounting for Piątek’s current value, remarkable goal output, the domestic suitor’s need and age.

Emphasizing more on age, it is worth mentioning that Piątek seems to fall in line with Milan’s adopted strategy under new CEO Ivan Gazidis of bringing in younger talent with future market upside. And if you want to go the hypothetical route here, Milan hold an option to purchase Higuain this summer for around €36m, which they’d obviously bypass if he joins Chelsea. In addition to this, Sevilla have an option of their own to buy André Silva for €39m as confirmed by the Spanish club last month. Under the assumption Higuain departs, and Silva’s agent Jorge Mendes irons out a deal to keep his client in Seville past this campaign, by my estimation, Milan make out well on the financial side of a potential Piątek deal. Additionally, the idea exists of Milan acquiring Piątek on the basis of paying his fee over multiple installments, which in itself benefits the books.

Genoa hold leverage here against Milan as they know Higuain seeks refuge in England and Gennaro Gattuso needs to fill the void instantly by having just one striker in Cutrone at his disposal. Unfortunately for Milan, and many others around Europe facing the same problem up front, it’s a matter of supply and demand – and demand is limited. Then again, the details of a potential transaction are by no means established, so it is speculation at this point of the negotiations.

Shifting towards the subject player, because opinions on him certainly vary and there is a ton to unpack, Piątek’s profile is that of a pure striker.

Evident with his exploits in Liguria, the coveted attacker provides a clinical finishing touch within distance of goal, and against popular belief, is more well-rounded than people may give him credit for.

Piątek isn’t of the burner mould. Instead, a forward who perhaps plays larger than his 1,83 m frame with a reliance on movement, proper positioning, asserting himself, and engaging in, encounters with defenders to see enough of the ball in the final third to bury his chances.

Aerially, Piątek is a threat with his physicality and ability to get on the end of balls played in from the flanks and on set pieces. To call him an opportunist would almost mean that he is a poacher, but that is not the case. Rather, he is a striker who demands the ball and strives to makes the most of his goal sense and understanding of the penalty area, while also demonstrating the desire to aid in the transition from the defending to attacking phase.

Similarly to Dawid Kownacki, Piątek was prematurely dubbed by some as ‘the new Robert Lewandowski’; a low-hanging, convenient nickname for reasons centered around position and country of origin. Bestowing such expectations on him can be dangerous, but seeing as he moved on the cheap, the pressure to meet that unrealistic standard was a non-factor. However, transferring to Milan as a talent now thrusted into the limelight as an expensive replacement for Higuain comes with heaps of responsbility and expectations. There is a standard to meet, and a very high one at that, when wearing the famous red and black as a striker for Milan.

Undoubtedly, the Rossoneri shirt is a heavy one, with a prestigious crest and long line of legends to toss it on their shoulders. And to most, six months of top-flight success does not warrant a large fee, nor a Milan shirt in such a pivotal period for the club seeking a return to European football’s main stage.

There are many loyal Milanisti who prefer to christen ‘predestinato’ Cutrone as the main man over splashing on Piątek, and instead, allocate those funds towards a dynamic winger capable of supporting the 21-year old with gamechanging ability. Doubts wlll continue to be raised about whether Cutrone and Piatek are compatible for a side that often deals with dry spells of service to the forwards who have dependence on it. Then again, how many can effectively fend for themselves? But while the jury is still out on Piątek and his qualifications to help ignite the attack, it would be remiss to doubt sporting director Leonardo and Paolo Maldini in selecting Higuain’s replacement.

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Player Spotlight: Napoli’s winter target Christian Kouamé

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Genoa’s breakthrough star Krzysztof Piątek, and his 13-goal scoring outburst, have unequivocally earned much of the attention around the Marassi this 2018-19 Serie A season; trailing only Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (14) on goals will have such an effect. However, lost in all the fanfare and rumours surrounding the 23-year old’s white-hot start to life in Italy with the Rossoblu is his strike partner who, although does not rival his production, is the one generating the most buzz here in early 2019.

Let’s turn the spotlight on 21-year old Ivorian forward, Christian Kouamé. Continue reading