Allegri talks before Bologna-Juventus

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri met the press today and obviously returned on the Atletico Madrid game and the comparison with what happend with Real last year: “The circumstances are different, we have 20 days to prepare this fixture, which will be our match of the year. With enthusiasm and adrenaline. I do not know whether we will advance, but we have to do everything in our power to pull it off. In order to get there, we have to do well in the next three league games. We face Bologna which have a new coach and a new attitude, they have won in Milan, tied with Genoa and did not deserve to lose against Roma. It is an important game because we want to arrive to the Napoli clash with the same lead. We need eight more wins in Serie A.” Continue reading

AC Milan 3-0 Empoli: Highlighting the positives for Gattuso’s men

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Despite a lacklustre first-half performance, AC Milan managed to get themselves together during the break, eventually scoring three goals to seal a comfortable win against Empoli. 

However, as said, it didn’t look all too well in the first half. After Paqueta had a goal disallowed correctly by VAR, the Rossoneri seeminly lost energy to find new solutions, almost looking like they were in the lead already. Fortunately, they were able to turn this around in the second half, perhaps thanks to a successful speech by Gattuso during the break.

In fact, in a matter of minutes, AC Milan secured the win by putting two goals past the away side’s goalkeeper. Piatek got on the scoresheet first, as Calhanoglu picked him out brilliantly in the box. Thanks to this goal, the Polish striker has equalled Oliver Bierhoff’s record from 1998, having scored in his first four consecutive league starts.

Just two minutes later, Kessie added to the lead as Castillejo managed to get past two defenders, before freeing the Ivorian in the middle. The tirelessly working midfielder chipped the goalkeeper and so Gattuso’s men had completed a misery compiler. The fun didn’t end there as Castillejo extended the lead 15 minutes later, capitalizing on a brilliant cross from Conti.

All in all, a very convincing victory by Milan, who are now just one point behind Inter in third place. However, the Nerazzurri of course have a game in hand: facing Fiorentina on Sunday evening. In any case, the three points are absolutely crucial as the Rossoneri look to distance themselves from Atalanta, Lazio and Roma.

So, what positives can we take from the game? Based on the second half, there are many moments to choose from. The centreback duo, consisting of Musacchio and Romagnoli, did really well to close down the opponents, who only had one shot on target all game. In addition to this, Biglia made his return coming back from injury, and performed quite well even though the game was done by then.

More importantly, Castillejo proved that he’s certainly worthy of replacing Suso on the right flank. In the first half, he seemed to be the only real threat, and performed to the best of his abilities in the last 45 minutes. One goal and one assist to his name, does it get much better than that? Even though Suso remains the favourite for the RW position, Samu has without a doubt given Gattuso something to think about.

Having scored three+ goals in three consecutive league games (for the first time since December 2012), the Rossoneri have subsequently improved their goal difference, which was pretty boring a few weeks ago. If this will prove decisive at the end of the season remains to be seen, but it’s certainly refreshing to see a Milan side scoring many goals (while also conceding little).

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Serie A Probable Lineups – Round 25

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Milan XI: 4-3-3 Donnarumma; Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie, Bakayoko, Paqueta; Castillejo, Piatek, Calhanoglu.

Potential lineup changes: Calabria for Conti, Borini for Castillejo.

Confirmed Out: Suso (suspension), Bonaventura (knee), Zapata (thigh), Caldara (Achilles), Reina (thigh).

 

Empoli XI: 3-5-2 Provedel; Veseli, Silvestre, Dell’Orco; Di Lorenzo, Acquah, Bennacer, Krunic, Pasqual; Farias, Caputo. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 25

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Juventus: Sami Khedira underwent a heart ablation with an arrhythmogenic atrial focus and will miss a minimum of one month. Emre Can is suspended. Douglas Costa remains questionable with the quad injury that has forced to skip the last few games.

Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne is disqualified, while Mario Rui has slim chances to return from a thigh pull.

Inter: Mauro Icardi took some tests this week, which revealed no structural damage on his achy knee, but he is still poised to be unavailable this week amid the standoff with the managament. Balde Keita is having a hard time shaking off a thigh strain. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 25

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Robin Olsen: Roma do not have the most airtight defense this year, but they will square off against Frosinone in this round, which have failed to score in four straights home fixtures. Olsen is coming off a superlative performance against Bologna.

Nicola Murru: Sampdoria are slumping, but in this weekend they will face Cagliari, which will be offensively challenged with few of their attackers on the sidelines and also have failed to hit the net in three straight road games. Murru has the most upside out of the Blucerchiati defenders, but the other regulars Bartosz Bereszynski and Joachim Andersen would be fine choices too. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 25

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Milan-Empoli: the Rossoneri are coming off a humungous win over Atalanta, the second in a row after they had disposed of Cagliari and they have not lost since in 2019, maintaining a slim advantage over Roma in the Champions League race. The Azzurri snapped an eight-game famine on Sunday, where they had picked up only two points and lost seven times. The Devil will not have Suso due to a suspension, which opens up minutes for either Samu Castillejo or Fabio Borini. Needless to say, Krzysztof Piatek continues to be amazing and his clutchness is remarkable because he does not get as many feeds as other top Serie A strikers. Hakan Calhanoglu finally bagged one last week and they will rely more on their playmaking with Suso on the stands. Continue reading

Three Things Lazio Need To Do To Get European Dream On Track

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Following their last-gasp defeat against Genoa, serious doubt was cast over Lazio’s top four hopes. The biancocelesti now find themselves four points behind Milan, and three back of fierce rivals Roma. Factor in a narrow first leg defeat in the Europa League against Sevilla, and you quickly see that Lazio’s Champions League dream is quickly fading. Here are three things Simone Inzaghi must do to get his side back on track in the race for top four.

1) Inzaghi must decide his best eleven, once and for all. 

Over the course of this season, Inzaghi has often tinkered with his starting eleven, leading many to believe he’s not yet aware of what his best lineup is. While injuries have constrained his choices, Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are set to return this week. With 14 games left to the season, Lazio cannot afford another slip-up, especially considering Milan’s red-hot form. Ciro Immobile is undoubtedly the first name on the team-sheet, but who should accompany him up top is not always clear. Joaquin Correa has proven to be dangerous, but typically thrives in a three-pronged attack, which allows him the freedom to drift wide.

When deployed alongside Immobile in a two-striker setup, Correa often leaves the Italian striker isolated as he roams freely. With Luis Alberto returning to the fold against Sevilla this week, Inzaghi would be wise to field a three-man attack with the Spaniard and Correa flanking Immobile. Against Juventus, this tactic worked wonders and if it weren’t for their own wastefulness, the biancocelesti could have put the tie to bed early in the second half.

With Milinkovic-Savic and Lucas Leiva in the midfield, Lazio will have all the solidity they need without compromising offensive firepower. Against Sevilla this week, Inzaghi’s men will need to be at their best if they are to overturn the tie, and could do so with this lineup. Let’s not forget – a Europa League win equals safe passage into next year’s Champions League.

2) Beat the teams below them. 

This one is rather obvious but could prove to be crucial in their hopes for European football. All too often Lazio are guilty of stooping down to the level of their opposition and giving them a chance at beating them. Just recently in their 1-0 win over Empoli, Lazio were wholly unconvincing and gave the Serie A minnows ample opportunities to hurt them. Luckily for them, they were able to nick a goal against the run of play and maintain the pace at the top. The same occurred the week before against Frosinone and will continue to happen if it goes unaddressed.

This season, Inzaghi’s men have dropped points against Serie A’s mid-table sides including the likes of Genoa, Torino, Chievo, and Sassuolo. While on their day all these sides possess quality and enterprise to take on any team in the league, Lazio should be claiming all three points regularly against the provinciali. With the season soon coming to a close, this is a pattern Inzaghi will be looking to rectify immediately.

3) Alter their shot selection and stop being wasteful in front of goal. 

Only Juventus and Napoli take more shots than Lazio in Serie A, as the biancocelesti are currently averaging 17 shots per game. Yet, that doesn’t always translate to goals. Right now, Lazio have the fewest goals scored of any side chasing top four football and would have the fewest goals scored in the entire top half of the table if it weren’t for Walter Mazzarri’s Torino.

At the moment, Lazio are not only being wasteful in front of goal, but they’re also firing low percentage shots. Moving forward, Lazio should prioritize high quality chances over the long-range screamers they seem to be enjoying. Inzaghi’s men would be wise to play that extra pass instead of firing away from outside the eighteen-yard box. With players like Luis Alberto and Correa, they can afford to take on an extra man or take a few extra touches before sliding through a teammate.

If they are to qualify for Champions League football, they’re going to need to start scoring more – starting with their clashes against Sevilla and Udinese. Fewer shots of higher quality will yield better results than shots from just about anywhere – a lesson Inzaghi’s men must learn sooner rather than later.

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Bonucci and Chiellini talk to Spanish newspapers

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Both centre-backs spoke to Spanish newspapers today, Leonardo Bonucci to AS and Giorgio Chiellini to Marca. Here are the highlights and the new stuff revealed in the interviews, starting with Bonucci: “Being able to stay with my family was one of the reasons why I decided to return to Juventus, I did not see my son Lorenzo very often last year, now he is happier. Unfortunately, he still cheers for Torino: he wavered after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, but he has enrolled in their youth academy. Matteo’s five-month sickness in 2016 was very tough, but it made me realize that I can live without football, but not without my family. Everything is fine now fortunately.” Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 24

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Salvatore Sirigu (7 points): he was probably a little lucky in his best save, on Lorenzo Insigne’s sure-fire attempt, but still made few other deciding ones that allowed Torino to stop Napoli.

Leonardo Bonucci (9 points): the acrobatic tap-in on the goal line, on top of a very easy clean sheet, made him the highest earner for this round.

Matias Silvestre (5 points): Empoli were finally able to prevent the opponents from scoring after failing to do so for 20 straight matches, and therefore the leader of their back-line gets a token spot. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Atalanta vs Milan

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The most significant game this week was the bout between Atalanta and Milan with the fourth spot on the line. The Goddess came into the fixture having won four of five, while the Rossoneri were coming off their most convincing win of the season, against Cagliari, and riding a six-match undefeated streak, where they had tied three times.

Both coaches confirmed the XIs they have been using consistently for few weeks: the only tweak by Gian Piero Gasperini was picking Berat Djimsiti to anchor the back-line and moving José-Luis Palomino to left centre-back, over Gianluca Mancini, while Gennaro Gattuso marshaled his usual 4-3-3. Continue reading