Serie A Club of the Round – Lazio

Lazio were denied the clean sheet, and therefore a great fantasy haul, in the final minutes, but they still had by far the most commanding display of any team on Saturday. They had failed to win in five straight games, drawing with Sassuolo, Milan, Chievo and Sampdoria and tumbling against Atalanta.

Coming into the match, there were rumours Simone Inzaghi would do away with his usual 3-5-1-1 to field his three creative midfielders together. He indeed deployed Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa from the start, but did it by keeping out both Milan Badelj and Lucas Leiva and using Marco Parolo as metronome in a very aggressive formation. Continue reading

Three David de Gea replacements should Manchester United have to sell

It has come to the attention of Manchester United fans that David de Gea’s contract negotiations have hit a stumbling block.

The Spain international is weighing up his future and knows that his next contract could rule him out of a move during his peak years. With the way that Manchester United are playing under José Mourinho, and how far they are from truly challenging the elite in Europe, it is no surprise that De Gea is questioning his options.

If the Spaniard decides against renewing with the Red Devils, the club will need to act fast in approaching potential replacements. Here are three that are worth considering should that outcome come to fruition:

Jan Oblak: Atlético Madrid 

The outstanding candidate would be Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, who has been tremendous ever since joining the Spanish giants. So much so that he has in fact kept more clean sheets than goals conceded while in goal since the 2014/15 season, showing his exemplary credentials and case to be crowned the best goalkeeper in the world.

Oblak is a wonderful shot-stopper, like De Gea, and also makes remarkable, worldly saves that he has no right to. The Slovenia international might have a brick wall in the form of a defence in front of him, but Oblak holds more than his own and has kept Atlético in crucial games.

At 25-years-old, Oblak is coming into his peak years as a goalkeeper and can rule as one of the leading goalkeepers of his generation. There is no reason to suggest that he cannot go on for another decade, playing at the elite level winning trophies.

The problem Manchester United face would be to prize the Slovenian away from sunny Madrid. Not only is it about convincing him to step down in terms of the level, because United at this moment are not comparable to Atlético, but to also convince the board members of the Spanish club to sell him. It would most likely take his full buy-out clause of £88 million (€100m) to acquire him.

If De Gea does leave in the next two years, Oblak should be the frontrunner in terms of who they target. He is the perfect replacement.

Jordan Pickford: Everton 

England’s number one has had a meteoric rise since leaving Sunderland for Everton just over two seasons ago.

Jordan Pickford has shown that height is not a sticking point in becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League with his distribution and positioning being first class.

Against Spain, Pickford set up two goals with his quick thinking and immaculate passing out of his hands and on the floor. That quick tempo that the England international plays at is what has allowed him to reach the heights he is beginning to.

He might be 24-years-old but Pickford has shown his calm, collected nature on a regular basis, especially in England’s round of 16 penalty shootout against Colombia. With the momentum with the South Americans, Pickford remained composed and eventually saved the crucial penalty that allowed England to win their first shootout in a major tournament for decades.

The Toffees player might not be a universally popular choice among United fans, but he is certainly not one to rule out given his status of being one of the uprising goalkeepers of his generation.

Thomas Strakosha: Lazio 

Thomas Strakosha is the unknown quantity in this list to those who do not follow Serie A, but he is one to take seriously.

The Albania international is an up and coming goalkeeper that has been courted by some of the biggest European clubs out there over the past few years, all while only making his proper breakthrough in the 2017/18 campaign.

Off the back of his 53 appearances last season, Strakosha has nailed down the number one jersey at Lazio and will be eyeing a move to a more influential club in Europe’s top five leagues. The 23-year-old has time on his side, but should the opportunity arise, he would not think twice about switching sides.

He might be the easiest profile to obtain on this list, but that does not mean he will come at a cheap price. Lazio set their price at around £35 million last summer and with the way he is play, that fee is likely to only rise in the near future.

Standing tall at 1.93m, Strakosha is a commanding and physical goalkeeper with aerial prowess. He might not have the distribution abilities of Pickford or shot-stopping qualities of Oblak, but he does climb above others to claim what is his.

While it was difficult for De Gea to adjust to English football given the physicality aspect of the league, Strakosha should not have the same problem due to his style of goalkeeping. He is not yet globally known, but the Albanian will burst onto the scene soon enough.

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Serie A Club of the Week – Roma

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Three teams won both of their fixtures this week, Juventus, Inter, Genoa and Roma, and none was more impressive than the Giallorossi, who bounced back after a rocky stretch, where they had failed to pick up a win for four consecutive Serie A games and were demolished by Real Madrid in Champions League.

Getting to face Frosinone is healthy for everybody at this point, but La Lupa smoked them. Cengiz Under broke the deadlock after just two minutes with a great central run capped off by a robust shot from distance that bended the goalie’s gloves. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 4

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Some of the biggest names finally delivered in the last weekend: here are the best players for round 4.

Thomas Strakosha (7 points): five teams managed to keep a clean sheet, so few goalies are together atop of the positional rankings. The Albanian had easily the best save of the week, which might easily go down as one of the finest in the year, as he thwarted a point-blank attempt by Francesco Caputo at the last second by sticking his foot out with perfect timing. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 3

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Here’s the list of the recommended players to select ahead of the next Serie A round.

Thomas Strakosha: Lazio had two gruelling games to open the season, against Napoli and Juventus, and came away empty-handed, but the schedule gets easier this week with a cosy match-up against Frosinone, which have yet to score and will be without their top two guys up front Federico Dionisi and Daniel Ciofani.

Joao Cancelo: the Portuguese right back has fitted right into Juventus’ XI, providing a solid offensive contribution while he works on his defensive limitations. The Bianconeri will head to Parma in the weekend. Continue reading

Serie A Best Team to Pick – Round 37

FC Torino v AC Milan - Serie A

A crucial Serie A is on the horizon, here are the proposed players to select.

Thomas Strakosha: stopping Crotone’s strikers is not the easiest task, but he is coming off a monster performance against Atalanta.

Joao Cancelo: Sassuolo have hit the net very frequently in the most recent matches, but they have achieved their seasonal target in the last match. The Portuguese left back has also always a decent chance of picking up extra points on offence.  Continue reading

Serie A Game of the Week – Round 36: Lazio vs Atalanta

 

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The most exhilarating game of the weekend was probably the back and forth between Genoa and Fiorentina, but since it was already thoroughly broken down by Chloe here, let’s dive into another pretty amusing one: Lazio-Atalanta, which was also one of the few fixtures where there was something at stake for both teams.

The two clubs arrived at this game in high spirits, riding three-game winning streaks. Simone Inzaghi had the task of replacing his injured star Ciro Immobile and picked the easiest fix, the backup Felipe Caicedo. After some gamesmanship in the pre-game presser, Gian Piero Gasperini fielded both Remo Freuler and Bryan Cristante, kept Josip Ilicic on the bench and chose José-Luis Palomino for the suspended Mattia Caldara.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 36

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Here’s the first edition of the Serie A recap, which will provide some quick thoughts on the round that just ended.

Standings implications. Juventus are de facto champions since Napoli dropped two more points and the gap in the goal difference is too wide. It is not officially official, but it is as close as it gets. Inter earned two points to Lazio for the fourth spot and the showdown in the final matchday will likely decide the final team qualifying to Champions League. Sampdoria are virtually eliminated from the Europa League race since they are five points behind the seventh-placed Atalanta, which were leapfrogged by Milan despite a great performance against Lazio.

At the bottom of the table, Verona are mathematically relegated, while Sassuolo are safe. Chievo and Spal nabbed monumental wins, putting Cagliari in real troubles. There are now five teams within two points, with one going down.

Confirmations. Mauro Icardi, Matteo Politano and Hakan Calhanoglu extended their hot streaks. Paulo Dybala did not have a great game but still hit the target, Simone Verdi converted a penalty in an unfavourable match-up. Patrick Cutrone has the biggest nose for the goal among Milan’s centre-forwards. Cengiz Under, Sami Khedira and Musa Barrow continue to produce, same for Mariusz Stepinski. Both Spal strikers took advantage of Benevento’s lousy defence. Giacomo Bonaventura, Douglas Costa and Marcelo Brozovic shined and notched a pair of assist each, Josip Ilicic could have had a similar haul if it was not for Thomas Strakosha and the rest of Lazio’s defenders. Alisson had a couple of tremendous saves.

Guess who is back. It did not propel Napoli to victory, but Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik snapped their scoring slump. Valter Birsa scored a crucial goal, his first since October.

Surprise scorers. The first three are not that astonishing since they are attackers, but it was their first this season, or in Serie A in general: Rafinha finally coronated a string of good performances with a goal, Giuseppe Rossi found the net after over a year and Seung-Wong Lee had the consolation goal against Milan. Ignazio Abate and Andrea Ranocchia have not started much this year and it was certainly a surprise to see them in the scoresheets: the Milan right back even scored a pretty goal on an open play.

Flops of the round. The defences of Bologna, Torino, Udinese and Verona were already headed for tough games, but the blunders of Sebastien De Maio and Nicolas Burdisso did not help. Napoli’s Mario Rui and Pepe Reina had a miscommunication on Lorenzo De Silvestri’s score, which was probably more on the fullback. Gianluigi Buffon sent an errant pass towards Daniele Rugani, who caused a penalty. Sampdoria did not show up in Sassuolo. Not exactly flops, but Gonzalo Higuain and Ivan Perisic did not join the goal fest thrown by their teammates and Edin Dzeko had a quiet outing.

Clutch goal of the day. Not a ton of late-game heroics in this one, the shut-out goes to Fiorentina’s Bryan Dabo timely trail on a feed by Diego Falcinelli to complete the comeback and defeat Genoa.

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Serie A Game of the Week – Round 32: Lazio vs Roma

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The two most anticipated matches of the last Serie A round, Milan-Napoli and Lazio-Roma, failed to deliver in the terms of scoring, but they were still vibrant and certainly did not lack action. The Derby of the Italian Capital was a little more hard-fought.

The two sides arrived at the game in a completely different mood after the European efforts: Roma trampled Barcelona in an historical upset and gained access to the Champions League semi-finals, while Lazio wasted away a good lead with a five-minutes black-out against Red Bulls Salzburg, squandering a qualification that was within reach. They were tied in third place in the standings, one point above Inter.

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Serie Best Team to Pick – Round 29

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No massive clashes in the upcoming Serie A round, but the top teams will try to avoid stumbling to remain in contention for their seasonal objetives. Here are the suggested selections to make

Thomas Strakosha: he made a mess with Luiz Felipe in the last outing in Cagliari, indirectly causing a penalty, but he can be trusted against a seesawing Bologna team that has lost in four straight road games and is still searching for the right combination upfront.

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