Juventus injury updates, milestone goal, memorabilia and Cancelo’s value

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Juventus’ defence, which has been the healthiest department so far, is suddenly short-handed as Medhi Benatia is dealing with some knee soreness, which will sideline him for the Young Boys contest and will likely require further exams. Andrea Barzagli recently suffered a quad strain and he is not expected to return before the end of the calendar year. After missing two and a half games with a thigh pull, Alex Sandro should be able to contribute, either on Wednesday or on Saturday, while Sami Khedira’s ankle still has not healed.

The Bianconeri will be looking to clinch the top spot of the group in Bern, which would allow them to avoid some dangerous teams in the first round of the knock-out stage. The next goal will be a milestone achievement, as it will be the 5000th scored in the history of the club. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 15

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Goals galore in Serie A this week: here are the top 11 perfomers.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (7 points): just four clean sheets in this round, by Milan, Torino, Napoli and Juventus. The starlet once again showed off his cat-like reflexes with a pair of superb saves on a header by Iago Falque and on an attempt by Andrea Belotti.

Faouzi Ghoulam (9 points): his return on the pitch after over a year and two major knee injuries could not have gone any better as he perfectly set up the two goal by Arkadiusz Milik with crisp crosses. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Sassuolo vs Fiorentina

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Plenty of pathos in the last Serie A round: Cagliari-Roma and Lazio-Sampdoria would have been worthy candidates for match of the week, but then Sassuolo-Fiorentina outdid them on Sunday.

Both teams came into the game pretty desperate for a win: the Neroverdi had prevailed just once in the previous eight fixtures, while La Viola last grabbed the full three points for the last time in late September. With Kevin-Prince Boateng out with an injury, Roberto De Zerbi used his best XI, with Khouma Babacar spearheading the front-line, Federico Di Francesco on the left wing and Stefano Sensi as deep-lying playmaker. Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Round – Napoli

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An easy call for club of the week this time around, as Napoli quickly disposed of Frosinone on Saturday. As he often does, Carlo Ancelotti looked ahead, at the decisive Champions League clash with Liverpool coming on Tuesday, and spared some of his best men: Raul Albiol, José Callejon, Fabian Ruiz and Dries Mertens. Sebastiano Luperto, Adam Ounas and Arkadiusz Milik drew the start.

It was an evening of debuts and returns, as Alex Meret was between the sticks for the first time after being sidelined by an early forearm fracture, Faouzi Ghoulam got the first start in over a year and Amin Younes played his first minutes with the Azzurri after recovering from an Achilles tear. Continue reading

Lazio’s Winless Streak Continues Against Sampdoria

Winless in their last four going into Saturday’s clash against Sampdoria, Lazio needed to rebound at home. After a dubious stoppage time penalty shot from Ciro Immobile put the hosts ahead late, it seemed like it would finally be their day. Yet, in the 99th minute, a headed-on long ball found its path to an onrushing Riccardo Saponara who expertly lobbed Strakosha with a deft touch, stripping the biancocelesti of the three points. The draw was Lazio’s fourth consecutive and sees the side trailing an injury-riddled Milan by a point for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Lazio’s struggles haven’t gone unnoticed in the peninsula leading Simone Inzaghi to the hot-seat. With Champions League football as the objective, the Italian tactician is facing pressure for the first time since taking over in the nation’s capital. Throughout this poor stretch, the biancocelesti have largely been wasteful in front of goal, averaging a mere goal a game. Outside of their talisman Immobile, no player on the team has more than three Serie A goals, leading many to believe they’re a one-man show in the final third. Despite their struggles, Lotito has assured the fans Inzaghi is here to stay.

“The coach will be here for the next few years. We’ve put a lot of things in place to grow the club and it can happen that some games don’t go in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean catastrophes or broken relationships,” said the Lazio president.

When it goes wrong it’s easy to scapegoat the manager but both Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto have been shadows of their former selves and have been wholly ineffective in the final phase, whereas last season they were key contributors. While the Serbian’s price-tag was quoted near the 100 million mark just this summer, Lazio president Claudio Lotito will be lucky to recoup even half of that if he keeps performing like this. Luis Alberto, on the other hand, has failed to follow up his debut season in Serie A and has suffered from the same inconsistency problems that plagued him earlier in his career.

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Ronaldo talks Juventus, Messi & the Ballon d’Or

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave an attention-grabbing interview to Gazzetta dello Sport: “I am happy to be here, the city is very pretty, the fans are nice and Juventus is a fantastic club with an extraordinary organization. The players are humble and work hard. The first impression has been wonderful.”

On the squad: “This is the best group I have played in, we are a team. In other clubs, some players felt like they were bigger than the teammates, while that is not the case here. They are aligned and they want to win. Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic are happy even if they do not score. I noticed the difference. Compared to Real Madrid, this is more like a family.” Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 15

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Standings implications: Juventus sank Inter in the most anticipated game of the round, while Napoli wiped out Frosinone, maintaining the distance from the top spot and gaining ground on the Nerazzurri. Both Roman teams were incredibly pipped at the post against Cagliari and Sampdoria and Fiorentina tied the game late versus Sassuolo. Milan and Torino shared the spoils, so the only team prospering in the Europa League zone was Atalanta, which upended Udinese on the road. Among the relegation strugglers, Empoli keep soaring with the third win in the last month, this time over Bologna. Genoa showed grit in the one-one tie with SPAL in Cesare Prandelli’s debut. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 15

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Juventus were rather fortunate to not find themselves in a hole after a shaky first half and hour, when they allowed some clear-cut changes to Inter, then begun to take control of the operations late in the first half and managed the game pretty well after getting the lead.

Joao Cancelo (7 points): the Portuguese fullback was a little imprecise defensively in this one, but he continues to be absolutely electric when running up and down the flank. On top of being a constant thorn into Inter’s side, he gets the credit for that cross that had such a sharp trajectory that could not be intercepted by Samir Handanovic and set up Mario Mandzukic’s comfy header. Continue reading

Big Game Mandzukic Helps Juventus Prevail in Derby d’Italia

With Inter coming into the latest Derby D’Italia in good form and with the potential to open up the title race, Juventus had to be on their toes. While it wasn’t the bianconeri’s best performance to date, Allegri’s men did just enough to best their counterparts and claim the three points in unspectacular fashion, extending their lead at the top to 11 points. The game started at break-neck pace with both teams exchanging chances early on, however, Inter looked more threatening with midfielder Roberto Gagliardini hitting the post mid-way through the first half.

Awoken by the near goal, Juventus kicked into another gear and started to dominate the possession again, yet struggled to break down Inter’s resolute back four. The breakthrough came in the second half when Joao Cancelo, formerly of Inter, found himself one-on-one with the man who replaced him Šime Vrsaljko. After cutting the ball to his preferred right foot and a slightly body feint later, the high-flying fullback carved out enough space for himself to deliver an inch-perfect cross to an onrushing Mario Mandzukic. Like we’ve seen countless times in Juve’s big games in recent times, the Croatian bullied his former teammate Kwadwo Asamoah at the back post and slotted home with ease; an Allegri trademark over the years.

Backed by a man-of-the-match performance by defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini, Mandzukic’s goal would be enough for Juve to prevail on the night and apply further pressure on title challengers Napoli ahead of their clash against Frosinone. While Ronaldo, Dybala and Douglas Costa provide the flair in the final third, Allegri’s Juventus still very much relies on the warrior-like mentality imparted by Chiellini and Mandzukic. Since the former Milan tactician has taken over, both players have been at the heart of the side’s success like none other and have come to typify exactly what it means to play for Juve.

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Luigi Sepe, the Neapolitan shot-stopper supporting Parma’s claim for Europe

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Parma’s magical journey from the depths of Italian football back to Serie A after declaring bankruptcy in 2015 was as inspiring a sporting story as any we have witnessed in recent years. A club rooted with plenty of history in ‘calcio’s’ top flight, and rich with the matching success to support, the Gialloblu’s climb over the past few years was tracked by all across the European football spectrum, and entering the current 2018-19 campaign, emerged to the forefront as a top story. Continue reading