Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 30

JUVENTUS-TORINO

Juventus: the Bianconeri are thriving offensively thanks to the great form of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, who scored in three consecutive matches. Douglas Costa contributed off the bench versus Genoa and he can be a factor even if he rarely plays full matches because of his injury history. Juan Cuadrado picked up an assist in the past match and he has been effective despite the more defensive role. Rodrigo Bentancur is in outstanding form but is not very prone to picking up bonuses. Their run of clean sheets was interrupted by a consolation goal, but they will be facing a sputtering attack in this one. Continue reading

SPAL 2-2 AC Milan: Tops and flops for the Rossoneri – Paqueta bounces back with impressive display

After the impressive 2-0 win against Roma, AC Milan failed to make it three out of three as SPAL scored two early goals to shock the away side. The Rossoneri eventually found a way back but it took an own-goal to seal the draw, which will leave them disappointed as the two extra points would have been crucial. 

In many ways, Stefano Pioli’s men were unlucky but they should have done better against a ten-man SPAL. The first goal came too late (79th minute) and you could also argue that the manager shouldn’t have done that many changes, bringing in five players to try and revive the attack.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantay Preview – Round 29

TORINO-LAZIO

Torino: the Granata had a nice reaction after falling in an early hole versus Cagliari, but an untimely penalty did them in. Andrea Belotti has found the target for two straight matches and has been excellent missed penalty aside. Simone Zaza is unlikely to be present, but Simone Verdi and especially Cristian Ansaldi, two of their most talented players, saw minutes in the past match and could be ready to start, unlocking few options up front, first of all the advancement of Alex Berenguer. Ansaldi had a positive impact after he subbed on, Verdi might need more time and had been struggling prior to the lockdown. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 28 – Sunday Games

Milan-Roma: the Rossoneri had an excellent performance against Lecce, although the quality of the opponents, especially in the back, needs to be taken into consideration. The light front-line worked out wonderfully as Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Giacomo Bonaventura all scored and Hakan Calhanoglu dished out two assists. Even Rafael Leao netted one off the bench. It is set to be confirmed as a whole because Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be at most be ready for a brief stint. Rebic and Bonaventura have the biggest chances to take home bonuses and Roma are not particularly stingy, while Calhanoglu runs most of the offense. Theo Hernandez picked it up where he left off and was one of their engines.

Suggested picks: Rebic, Bonaventura, Calhanoglu. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 27

Fiorentina-Brescia: the Viola will welcome back Franck Ribery, at least in limited fashion at first, and the coach is ready to tweak is system to accommodate him either in the hole or on the left wing, joining Dusan Vlahovic/Patrick Cutrone and obviously Federico Chiesa up front. In the meantime, it could be Gaetano Castrovilli taking on a bigger role. Alfred Duncan and Marco Benassi have some decent potential.  It is an extremely appealing match-up considering Brescia’s defensive woes and absences: Vlahovic and Castrovilli in the particular were in great form before the lockdown. Continue reading

Sarri set to shake things up once more

Going into a crucial stretch in the season, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is weighing his options and is reportedly considering shaking things up in the final third. In an attempt to introduce more dynamism into the side, the former Napoli tactician will deploy Paulo Dybala as a false nine and will shift Juan Cuadrado from defence into the attack. We saw glimpses of this setup this past weekend against Brescia and according to Gazzetta dello Sport, is something Sarri will persist with this match-day against cellar-dwellers SPAL.

With an important game against Lyon coming up, the pressure is on Sarri to get Juve into the quarter-finals comfortably and look to make a deep European run. The veteran tactician previously had success with a false-nine setup at Napoli when he deployed Dries Mertens there.

While Dybala and Mertens are different players in their own way, both are extremely technical and do a good job at linking the midfield to attack. More importantly, they’ve both proven to be deadly finishers. As la Joya is set to play closer to goal, expect more involvement from Dybala. If anything, a central role suits the former Palermo man better and will undoubtedly help Juve create more chances in the final third.

When Sarri was initially hired, many expected Dybala to occupy this role, but it has since taken 24 match-days to get there. In recent times, Juventus have struggled in the final third and have typically relied on individual brilliance to see them through. Recognizing this, Sarri is keen on making changes.

Beyond shifting Dybala into a central position, Sarri is reportedly moving Cuadrado out of defence and into the attack. After the side failed to adequately replace Joao Cancelo, Sarri used the Colombian international at right-back. Initially, the position switch worked wonderfully, but injuries to key men in the attack mean Sarri’s forced to shuffle the deck once more.

Cuadrado has played in Juve’s front-three in their last two games and has added some much-needed unpredictability and speed up top. Other than his ability to beat his man, the former Fiorentina winger stretches opposition defences regularly and is a counter-attacking threat. Until this switch, Sarri fielded his typical 4-3-1-2 formation, which sorely lacked width and pace.

The formation switch also suits Juve’s current attacking options better than Sarri’s narrow ‘Christmas Tree’. While Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa are still out injured, a 4-3-3 gives them the opportunity to play out wide in their natural roles, rather than being pigeon-holed into a central position. With Ronaldo drifting in from the left-wing and Dybala interchanging, Cuadrado, Douglas Costa or Bernardeschi will all have a chance to stake a claim for the final place in the front-three. The increased competition will likely help the wingers hit new heights.

As Juventus look to compete on three fronts, simply put, they will need to create more chances. Sarri’s latest shuffle may not work, but it’s definitely worth a shot, and if anything, suits Juventus’ attacking options way better than their current setup.

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SPAL sack Semplici and hire Di Biagio

After a couple of close calls in the past few weeks, SPAL have decided to pull the plug on Leonardo Semplici and bring in a new coach in Luigi Di Biagio, who inked a five-month contract. The management was reluctant to let go the coach that brought them from Serie C to Serie A and avoided relegation for two years in a row, but were left with no choice considering their dire situation in the standings. They are in last position seven points behind the 17th-placed Genoa. They have collected just four wins so far, against Lazio, Parma, Torino and Atalanta and have lost in five of the last six fixtures.

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 face test of squad depth as fixtures, injuries and suspensions pile up

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Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi is currently undergoing one of his biggest tests of the season.

That may seem like an odd thing to read, given that his team have forgotten how to lose; last weekend’s victory over Napoli marked a club record 10th league win in a row.

In that time, they’ve ended a 30-year wait to beat AC Milan at San Siro in Serie A, a 16-year winless run at home to Juventus in the league and most recently a six-match losing run against Napoli.

It’s tempting to think Lazio can just plug in and play at the moment, that Inzaghi has little more to do than send his team out on the pitch with the instructions: “Same again, lads”.

But the coach’s skill in keeping this run going shouldn’t be underestimated – and his biggest challenge could be just around the corner.

Lazio aren’t blessed with a squad boasting enormous strength in depth, and the loss of one undisputed starter can have a big impact on the way they perform.

Inzaghi already lost his hugely influential midfield pair Lucas Leiva and Luis Alberto through suspension for the trip to Brescia at the start of the year, and their absence was felt as Lazio toiled before snatching another late win.

Captain Senad Lulic is suspended for Sampdoria’s visit on Saturday, while Francesco Acerbi and Stefan Radu will miss the following weekend’s Rome Derby if they pick up another booking.

Danilo Cataldi, who is also one yellow card away from suspension, has been ruled out for almost three weeks with an injury sustained during the midweek Coppa Italia win over Cremonese, while Joaquin Correa hasn’t recovered in time to face Samp and joins long-term absentees Adam Marusic and Jordan Lukaku in the stands.

With the injuries and suspensions piling up, much is being asked of few.

Saturday’s clash with Claudio Ranieri’s side will be the third game in a run of six matches in 15 days for the Biancocelesti, and another five are yet to come before 9 February.

The routine 4-0 win over Serie B opposition on Tuesday evening highlighted the lack of quality in depth that Inzaghi has available to him, regardless of the handsome scoreline.

Ciro Immobile, Acerbi and Luiz Felipe were all handed starting spots yet again, despite clearly being in a position where they would benefit from some rest.

The reserve players brought in to the Lazio XI from the bench included the likes of Bastos, Patric and Bobby Adekanye. They all performed well, but they are expected to be comfortable against this level of opposition.

Comparatively, some of the squad rotations rolled out by Inter and Juventus this week included bringing in Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Valentino Lazaro, Gonzalo Higuain, Daniele Rugani and Federico Bernardeschi.

That, in a nutshell, is why any talk of Lazio competing for the Scudetto is premature.

Lazio’s strongest XI is the third-best in Serie A, but these players aren’t superhuman and they’ll be running on fumes or risking injury if they are made to continue at this frantic pace for much longer.

This is where Lazio’s early elimination from the Europa League may turn out to be a blessing in disguise; this busy stage of the season has tripped them up before, but now they have more time between league games to recover and work on details.

The question now is whether Claudio Lotito will choose to do something very uncharacteristic and open his chequebook during the January transfer window.

Lazio’s attack is threadbare in terms of options, and always has been. Immobile’s sensational form over the last three-and-a-half seasons has helped gloss over this fact, but the recent injury to Correa has highlighted the lack of options once again: Felipe Caicedo and Adekanye are the only other natural attackers in the squad.

Striker Lamin Jallow has been heavily linked with a move from Salernitana, Lotito’s other club, but how the 24-year-old will adapt to the demands of a Serie A Champions League race is a complete unknown.

Inzaghi is a fan of SPAL’s Alberto Paloschi, but he is another player who is unlikely to get fans off their seats in excitement.

Matias Vecino of Inter is perhaps the most interesting, high-profile player Lazio are considering for a mid-season move, but the signing would make little sense as it would only increase options in what is already the most competitive area of the squad, central midfield.

For now, this incredible wave of momentum should hopefully be enough to carry Lazio forward.

Inzaghi’s skill in the rotation and selection of his squad so far shouldn’t be underestimated, but the biggest test is yet to come.

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AC Milan 3-0 SPAL: Pioli’s men through to the quarter-finals with ease

AC Milan managed to follow up the win against Cagliari last weekend with yet another one this evening, beating SPAL with ease at the San Siro. Certainly, it was an encouraging performance by Pioli’s men, who now will face Torino ht quarter-finals of Coppa Italia. 

The Rossoneri started the game very well, immediately showing the away side their intentions for the evening. However, at least initially, SPAL managed to get past the Milan players despite the high line they faced. Pioli’s response? He ordered his players to push even further.  Continue reading