Assessing the Center Back Market in Serie A

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After looking at the goalkeeper position earlier this week, let’s review the market for center backs in Serie A. Let’s start with which top teams could use an addition or two

 

 

Juventus- Chiellini proved to be Juventus’ most important player this season and the fact that he’ll be 35 this year should give the team urgency to bolster this position especially since Bonucci was often a liability defensively while Rugani showed he’s not ready to be a starter at a club of this caliber. Emre Can could be used a center back more frequently but that would further weaken a midfield that isn’t great to begin with.

Napoli- there will be a lot of suitors for Koulibaly, and even though he’s expected to stay at the club, Albiol’s age and recent injuries, make the center back position a key need moving forward regardless of what Koulibaly does.

Inter- the nerazzurri are loaded at the position with Diego Godin joining Skriniar and De Vrij. Should Conte replace Spalletti, he’ll have a new version of the BBC waiting for him at la Pinetina.

Atalanta- the Bergamaschi could use an upgrade at the position especially since there’s a lot of suitors for Gianluca Mancini.

Roma- not upgrading this position in January is one of the many significant mistakes Monchi made at the club. The situation could get even more dire when you consider Kostas Manolas has a 36 million euro exit clause which is also valid in Italy.

Milan- Romagnoli took another step forward this season while Musacchio was considerably better than in his first campaign in Serie A. If Caldara can fully recover from his recent ACL injury, this will be one position where Milan can stay put with on the market.

Lazio- while Acerbi proved to be a more than adequate relacement for De Vrij, the rest of the biancocelesti’s center backs aren’t good enough to start for a team that wants to consistently compete for a Champions League spot. Should Inzaghi leave this summer, Lazio could also move away from a 3 center back defense which would have an impact on their summer plans- but regardless sporting director Tare’ needs to find at least one above average center back.

 

Now let’s look at the center backs in Serie A who will almost certainly be in the transfer news headlines

 

Koulibaly, Skriniar, Romagnoli- all three are expected to stay at their respective teams, but because of their impressive ability, they will certainly be targets for rich clubs abroad.

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Kostas Manolas- while De Ligt and Varane are Juventus’ top targets to build their defense around in the post Chiellini era, the Greek defender could be a very good stop gap. His speed would be an asset on a team that got run over by Atalanta and Ajax this season and the bianconeri have a great relationship with his agent Mino Raiola. Manolas’ profile was raised internationally last season thanks to Roma’s deep Champions League run, so he could also receive offers from outside of Serie A.

Nikola Milenkovic- the versatile Bosnian defender has been previously linked to Manchester United but Fiorentina’s very disappointing season has taken away some of his luster. But considering his ability to play as both a center back and right wing back, despite his considerable height, he will still be attractive to many teams.

Fiorentina spent just 5 million for him, so they can easily turn him into a massive profit. It will be interesting to see if Napoli or Roma get in the mix, considering he’ll turn 22 in October, MIlenkovic would still have considerable resale value down the line.

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Gianluca Mancini- between Atalanta’s magical run and making his debut for the Azzurri senior squad, this has been a magical season for the 23 year old defender from Pontendera. Roma has been targeting him for quite some time to either be Manolas’ partner or replacement and despite Monchi’s departure, a move to Italy’s capital still makes the most sense.

 

Nicholas NKolou & Armando Izzo- assuming he lands the Roma job, Petrachi would love nothing more than to bolster his new defense with one or two of Torino’s current key players. But the expected divorce from president Cairo looks to be quite acrimonious so it’s unlikely the granata would let either be reunited with Petrachi. Keeping both would be quite the statement from Torino especially when you consider their performances this season have elevated their profiles on the market.

Merih Demiral & Cristian Romero- while Juventus is expected to sign at least one big name at the center back position, their sporting director Paratici will also look to add a young player or two for the future. Juventus worked in synergy with Sassuolo to bring Demiral to Serie A from Turkey and he has more than distinguished himself since arriving, he’s very tall and has significant margins for improvement when you consider he’s only 21 years old.

Juventus is also expected to acquire Romero from Genoa, don’t be surprised if the transfer fee is rather substantial in light of the fact the amount of the Sturaro signing raised eye brows (remember that it’s very flawed to look at deals in a vacuum when clubs do a lot of business with one another). Both Romero and Demiral could however stay at their current clubs for another year.

 

Bruno Alves & Nicola Bastoni- Parma’s two stand out center backs could be on the move this summer. The veteran Portuguese international was linked to Juventus and Inter in January as a potential replacement for Benatia and Miranda respectively but ended up staying put. Bastoni on the other hand is on loan from Inter but would likely be better off staying on D’Aversa’s squad one more season so he can play regularly.

Joachim Andersen & Omar Colley- while Quagliarella has rightfully dominated the story lines surrounding Sampdoria, sporting director Osti has continued his streak of discovering intriguing center backs following Skriniar’s explosion. Considering that Colley is four years older than Andersen, he could be sold first.

 

Koulibaly set for summer transfer tug of war

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With the Serie A season almost over, gossip pages in both Italy and elsewhere in Europe and going to need something to fill their pages over the summer months.

Transfer speculation is set to dominate, with the biggest story already well underway – where next for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaily?

The Sengalese international has remained open ended on his future when asked this season, consistently stating that he and his agent would sit down with the club in May to decide on the future.

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Fabio Quagliarella aiming to break 58-year record

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Despite Sampdoria’s Serie A season fizzling out in recent weeks, with one win in five games, the story of Fabio Quagliarella remains huge news in Italian football.

The uber-veteran striker has rolled back the years time and again this season, to notch 23 Serie A goals, with four games of the season still to play for Marco Giampaolo’s side.

The 36-year old is enjoying an extended autumn summer in Genoa, during his second spell at the club, with the past two seasons seeing his highest ever league goal return.

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Milan confident of overhauling Europa League rivals

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With the Serie A season approaching its final straight, the race for the Europpean places is set to go down to the wire.

With Juventus having already secured their title, and Napoli and Inter Milan looking strong to secure a Champions League finish, the battle for Europe is spread across seven sides.

Atalanta and Roma look set to fight it out for fourth place, and Champions League football for 2019-20.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #32 – Roma’s Drake Ban, Barcelona Win La Liga

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The lads are back for another installment of the Euro Fantasy League Podcast! This time out, Jamie and Dave take a look at the title run-ins, relegation battles and European hopefuls. Barcelona have won La Liga once again, and Roma’s ban on Drake is also covered. Get in touch with us on Twitter (@eurofantasypod) or e-mail us (eurofantasypod@gmail.com). Remember to subscribe, rate and review when you are able – it’s all free!

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Juventus set for summer clear out

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Defending Serie A champions Juventus are in line to make some changes this summer, following the announcement of Aaron Ramsey on a pre-contract in Turin.

The Welsh international continues the club’s policy of signing established players on free transfers,with the support of a substantial salary, as they look to pursue European glory in the next few years.

However boss Max Allegri is also likely to make other signings alongside the Arsenal midfielder, with bids for Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Sporting Lisbon schemer Bruno Fernandes rumoured to be on the cards.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #31 – March Roundup – International & Domestic

EuroFantasyPodCover700x300Jamie and Dave are back with March’s edition of the Euro Fantasy League Podcast! We take a look at England, Italy and Spain’s international campaigns thus far and discuss the goings on in the respective domestic leagues, and Dave gets a little bit blinded.

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Pogba on his way to becoming a Fantasy Legend?

When Paul Pogba re-joined Manchester United from Juventus for £89.3 million at the start of the 2016-17 season, Premier League fantasy players were excited about the point potential of the midfield powerhouse. His addition at Old Trafford also influenced a number of bettors to stake on United winning the league with the influential midfielder controlling the center of the park.

The Frenchman had been a commanding force in Serie A but, in his first two seasons at Old Trafford, Pogba was a serious let-down. In that time, the World Cup winner only notched eleven goals, and his fantasy returns were abysmal. But now that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over from Jose Mourinho as the Red Devils manager, Pogba is reborn. In fact, the 25-year-old is well on the way to becoming a fantasy legend and a bettor’s dream.

There is no denying that Pogba is now an essential player for any fantasy manager hoping to finish the season in one of the higher rank tiers. On the official Fantasy Premier League page, the United man is in 43 percent of teams, and only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah can be found in more teams at 50.4 percent. Ever since Solskjaer took over as caretaker manager at Old Trafford, it has been clear that Pogba was restrained under the stewardship of Mourinho. The former United striker appears to have given his star player free reign to do as he pleases, and Pogba is relishing the opportunity. In fact, staking on the Frenchman to score in any game at the moment looks like a sensible bet. 

United’s transformation under Solskjaer has been epitomised by the rise of Pogba. They began way outside the top four before the Norwegian came in, but now a Champions League qualifying place next season is theirs to lose. All the latest betting sites are favouring Solskjaer’s charges to hold out for a top-four finish, but staking on that eventuality with a free bet is the best way to avert risk with Arsenal and Chelsea breathing down United’s neck. Sites like MoPlay are offering £30 in free bets to new players, for example. At this rate, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to put an early bet on United winning the league next year as well.

Since Solskjaer took over as manager of the thirteen-time Premier League winners, Pogba has scored eight goals and registered six assists in nine top-flight games. These are hugely impressive returns, especially for a player who can be signed for a mere 8.4 million in the game. Pogba not only represents an indispensable asset for every midfield, but he is also a major contender for the captaincy every week. The skilful ball player can add goals from open play but is also the designated penalty taker. This means he has the potential to explode and rake in tons of points on a weekly basis. Pogba is now easily the best value for money player in the game and is tussling with the likes of Salah to end the season with the highest number of points.

If Pogba can continue this output, his price will skyrocket in the 2019-20 season. He is proving to be one of the best, if not the best, player to own in Fantasy Premier League, and is on his way to making a name for himself as a point scoring legend. This is exactly what fantasy managers and bettors had hoped for from the United academy product when he returned to his old stomping ground.

 

Chievo vs. AC Milan: Team news, match facts and prediction

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On Saturday evening, Chievo will host third-placed AC Milan at the Stadio Bentegodi, with the guests looking to grab what should be considered as a routine win, given the record between the two teams. 

However, with Gattuso’s men being under pressure to keep their spot in third place, there will no longer be any easy games this season, at least so it seems. The Champions League race is incredibly tight, which Inter got first-hand experience of last week, dropping from third to fourth place after their away loss to Cagliari.

With that said, tomorrow’s game will be crucial for AC Milan, considering that the derby is up next. Only one point separates the two sides, making the coming weeks interesting from a neutral perspective, though it will be nerve-wracking for the respective fans.

Team News

Gattuso is expected to make four changes to the starting eleven, starting with two changes at the back. Conti will replace Calabria on the right flank, while Rodriguez is out due to suspension. In his place, Laxalt will start from the first minute.

Bakayoko will also be given some much-needed rest, following several weeks of intense matching. Biglia, who’s recently returned from injury, will replace the Frenchman. Other than that, the midfield will stay intact, with Kessie and Paqueta completing the trio.

Up front, the last change will be made. Suso and Piatek will, of course, play from start, but Calhanoglu is expected to be on the bench, having been in Germany earlier this week to see his new-born baby. The Turk will most likely be replaced by Castillejo, although Borini remains an alternative.

Likely AC Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Laxalt; Kessie, Biglia, Paqueta; Suso, Piatek, Castillejo.

Likely Chievo XI (4-3-1-2): Sorrentino; Depaoli, Bani, Barba, Jaroszynski; Leris, Diousse, Hetemaj; Giacherini; Stepinski, Meggiorini.

Match Facts

Looking at the stats and facts ahead of the game, Milan are clear favourites, having won 21 of their last 24 games against Chievo. Down below are the top five facts.

1. Milan have won 21 of their last 24 Serie A games against Chievo (three draws) and have not lost a league match with the Gialloblu since December 2005 (2-1 at the Bentegodi).
2. During the first 13 games in Serie A this season, Milan faced, on average, 12.5 shots per match (17 goals conceded), while over the last 13 matches, the average number of shots faced has been 12.1 (only five goals conceded).
3. Chievo (85 mins) have lead for the fewest number of minutes at home in Serie A this season, while Milan (73 mins) have trailed for the fewest in away matches in the competition in 2018-19.
4. Milan sit third in Serie A after 26 matches; the last time they held such a high position in the table during the second half of the season was back in 2012-13.
5. Milan have won each of their last five Serie A games against Chievo, scoring at least three goals each time, but have never kept a clean sheet either.

Prediction

As mentioned previously, this shouldn’t be a tough game for Milan. As long as they don’t underestimate Chievo, then they should be in the clear, although the performance will have to be significantly better than the one we saw against Sassuolo. If they can recover from that narrow win, then 3-1 (in Milan’s favour) is likely.

How well do you know Italian football? Want to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Goal shy Udinese facing possible relegation to Serie B

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Udinese are facing a potential relegation from Serie A and a return to the Italian second tier for the first time since 1995.

This season has been a mess from start to finish for the club, and they are in real danger of ending it in the worst possible way – with 13 games remaining in 2018-19.

Issues on and off the pitch have dogged the side throughout the campaign, and they look short of individuals with the experience and ability to dig them out of their current situation in time.

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