The reinvigoration of Hirving Lozano

Not many sides have taken Atalanta apart quite like Napoli did last weekend. At this stage it’s no secret how much Gian Piero Gasperini has changed the entire fabric of the club since his arrival four years ago. La Dea are usually the ones handing out a 4-1 mauling, they don’t tend to be on the receiving end.

But on Saturday they were. Napoli simply blew their top-four rivals away in the opening 45 minutes with an intensity and attacking verve that’s usually Atalanta’s calling card. Gasperini’s men were thoroughly given a dose of their own medicine. Pivotal to their success in that opening period was Hirving Lozano, who scored twice in four minutes.

Lozano’s second, a wonderfully executed curling effort just inside the penalty box, was indicative of the confidence the Mexico international is now showing at the club. With four goals already this season, Lozano has equalled the tally of goals he scored in Serie A last season. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Four

Standings implications: Milan is atop of the table after convincingly besting Inter in the Derby della Madonnina. They are followed by Sassuolo, who staged an furious comeback against Bologna. Napoli made a statement by trouncing Atalanta, while Juventus could not get past Crotone. Lazio got stunned by Sampdoria on the road. Fiorentina wasted an early two-notching lead versus Spezia, while Cagliari outlasted Torino. Udinese nabbed their first points in dramatic fashion and Roma outgunned a fiery Benevento.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four – Top Matches

NAPOLI-ATALANTA

Napoli: they did not get to play the third game because of well-known reasons, but the first two were pretty indicative. Victor Osimhen has yet to score, but he has had a major impact anyway and he is bound to break through soon. In the meantime, Dries Mertens has led the charge (two goals, two assists), helped by the resurgent Hirving Lozano, who has kept up the momentum from the restart. The injury to Lorenzo Insigne and Piotr Zielinski and Elijf Elmas getting COVID might slow down the deployment 4-2-3-1 in full force, but that should be the way forward and the arrival of Tiemoué Bakayoko cements it. The absences could give Matteo Politano and/or Stanislav Lobotka a bigger role than usual and the former scored in the Genoa romp. If Atalanta do not adjust the way they defend, they could make some sweet music on counters.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three – Top Matches

ATALANTA-CAGLIARI

Atalanta: the Bergamaschi took it to Lazio as well, making the second game in a row with four goals scored, as the machine is still working like a charm. Alejandro Gomez not only pulled the strings, but also scored twice and was joined in the stat-sheet by Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens. Hateboer has already matched his entire production for the 2019/2020 campaign, while Gosens opened his tally. Ruslan Malinovskyi got the start this time and dished an assist, while Luis Muriel almost hit the net off the bench. The only negative aspect of the young season is that Duvan Zapata has not really looked dominant and might need some time to be in peak shape, but they surely have the manpower to work around that. The flank game has been particularly terrific so far. Mario Pasalic might feature in a less offensive position going forward since they are stacked with attackers but short on midfielders and his output could suffer.

Suggested picks: Gomez, Muriel, Gosens. Continue reading

Fantasy Serie A Gameweek Two Picks

Serie A returned in style last weekend and promises yet another matchday of exciting action, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta make their highly anticipated debut on Saturday against Torino. Inter will host Fiorentina in Saturday’s final game as Antonio Conte’s men look to pick up where they left off last season and emerge as title contenders.

Elsewhere, Roma takes on Juventus on Sunday and will be hoping to get their season back on track after their surprising forfeit to Hellas Verona.

Without further ado, here are your fantasy Serie A picks ahead of gameweek two:

Gianluigi Donnarumma: The Milan shot-stopper may have conceded twice against Bodo-Glimt, but he should be a safe pick ahead of the Rossoneri’s clash against the newly-promoted Crotone. Donnarumma kicked off the season in fine form against Bologna and will be looking to continue his good start against Crotone.

Achraf Hakimi: The former Borussia Dortmund man is available for a mere 4.5 million and should hit the ground running in Inter’s season opener. Hakimi is a match made in heaven for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will be looking to replicate last season’s impressive exploits in Italy. With Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez combining dangerously, expect the Moroccan international to fit right in at Inter.

Omar Colley: Sampdoria lost their season opener in convincing fashion against Juventus, but Colley was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance. The Blucerchiati will be welcoming Benevento to the Luigi Ferraris and should be good value for a clean sheet.

Kalidou Koulibaly: The Senegalese international ultimately remained at Napoli amidst heavy Premier League interest and should be a crucial piece to Gennaro Gattuso’s setup moving forward. Koulibaly will be eager to thwart Genoa’s momentum after I Grifoni emerged 4-1 winners over Crotone in their season opener.

Theo Hernandez: The former Real Madrid man was in sensational form against Bologna, registering his first assist of the season. Hernandez has established himself as one of Milan’s biggest offensive threats, getting forward at will down the left-hand side. Crotone has just conceded four against Genoa and shouldn’t find it easier against the Rossoneri.

Luis Alberto: The Spanish international is coming off his best season yet in a Lazio shirt and is great value for money at 4.5 million. Luis Alberto emerged as one of the league’s elite creators last season, forming a deadly partnership with Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi’s men will be eager to hit the ground running against Cagliari and expect Luis Alberto to be at the heart of it.

Aaron Ramsey: Ramsey struggled last season in Maurizio Sarri’s rigid 4-3-3, but looked reborn in Andrea Pirlo’s fluid system. The Welshman only registered one assist against Sampdoria, but had it not been for his teammates’ profligacy in front of goal, it could have been two or three. Expect Ramsey to continue his fine form against Roma.

Hakan Calhanoglu: The Turkish international has been at the heart of Milan’s resurgence under Stefano Pioli, carving out an important role for himself as the Rossoneri’s trequartista. Calhanoglu has combined his incredible vision with a keen eye for goal and has since become Milan’s difference-maker in the final third. The 26-year-old is coming off yet another influential performance and should continue his impressive run against Crotone.

Domenico Berardi: The Sassuolo winger got off to a disappointing start to the season against Cagliari, but should put his goalscoring woes behind him against Spezia. The Neroverdi’s dynamic front three has proven too much to handle for most of Italy’s backlines in the past and should have what it takes to claim an important three points against the newly-promoted outfit.

Ciro Immobile: Last season’s capocannoniere will be eager to repeat the feat once more, starting with Lazio’s opener against Cagliari. Immobile has proven to be a consistent goalscorer in league play in recent years and is always good value to find the back of the net. Alessio Cragno is one of Serie A’s best shot-stoppers, but Immobile and co. possess enough firepower to get the job done.

Victor Osimhen: The Nigerian international changed the complexion of his game shortly after his introduction and should feature from the start against Genoa. Osimhen will be raring to go after an impressive debut and should open his account for the season against I Grifoni.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Two – Top Matches

TORINO-ATALANTA

Torino: the Granata did really not show anything new in the Fiorentina game even though Marco Giampaolo is supposedly going to bring a ton of changes, but that will take time and likely a couple of new players to come to fruition. They created just a pair of changes, with Andrea Belotti fully in the thick of it as per usual, while Simone Zaza rubbished a tasty one. They might be better off signing a new striker. The coach went with Alex Berenguer in the hole and then voiced doubts about Simone Verdi’s playing in that position, however there is not really any other place for him in the formation, so he will have to adapt. Soualiho Meite and Karol Linetty were not very involved offensively, mostly because the match-up was not easy, but this upcoming one is worse.  Continue reading

Three Bold Predictions Ahead of the New Season

The new Serie A season is officially upon us and is shaping up for another enthralling year of action. Juventus appear to be in a transtion year, but has bolstered their roster significantly already while Inter will be hoping to pip their rivals to the Scudetto after falling short last season.

Milan enters the new year confident as ever, having just secured two impressive young talents in Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz and will be hoping to return to the Champions League. The capital-based clubs,  Roma and Lazio, will duke it out once more and will be right there with Milan in the race for top four. The biggest question mark going into the new season remains Atalanta and whether they can replicate last season’s impressive exploits.

Without further ado, here are three bold predictions going into the new season:

Sassuolo to qualify for the Europa League: 

Roberto De Zerbi’s men finished last season on a high note and nearly cracked Italy’s top seven. Sassuolo has managed to keep its stars this offseason, notably Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga, and possess one of the league’s most underrated number nines in Ciccio’ Caputo. The Neroverdi also rebuffed Juve’s advances for Manuel Locatelli and will be going into the new season hoping their midfield dynamo can supply their high-powered front three.

De Zerbi has demonstrated he can get the most of Sassuolo’s roster and will be hoping to guide them into contention for the Europa League. The competition will be stiff considering Milan, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, and arguably Fiorentina will all be in the mix depending on their respective seasons, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say Sassuolo will qualify for the Europa League.

A Coppa Italia triumph counts!

Victor Osimhen as capocannoniere: 

Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo pushed each other to new heights in last season’s capocannoniere race but will have more company this time around. Napoli’s record signing Victor Osimhen is ready to take the next step in his career and lead the Partenopei’s line to devastating effect. The Nigerian international broke onto the scene last season with 17 goals in all competitions and will slot in seamlessly in Napoli’s dynamic frontline.

Immobile and Ronaldo relied heavily on penalties to inflate their scoring records last season, and one of them will likely slow down as a result. Osimhen is an outside bet for leading goalscorer, but given his skillset and Napoli’s counterattacking style, the former Lille man will have many scoring opportunities. Romelu Lukaku is another striker worth monitoring in this race but is a far safer bet in this respect.

Achraf Hakimi and Edin Dzeko to be tied for assists: 

Hakimi’s signing is one that takes Inter to the next level, as the Morrocan international will provide quality and a deadly final ball from a wingback position. Last season, the former Dortmund man registered an impressive ten assists and will look to translate his efforts in Conte’s 3-5-2.

Dzeko, on the other hand, is more known for his ability to find the back of the net, but evolved his game and has since emerged as an elite creator as well. The Bosnian international finished last season with 11 assists, indicating his playmaking threat. Dzeko is reportedly nearing a move to Juventus and will slot in wonderfully alongside Ronaldo, Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski.

Both Dzeko and Hakimi will be eager to replicate last season’s output and should be in a good position to do so. They may not top Luis Alberto or Papu Gomez’s tallies, but they will definitely be up there with Serie A’s deadliest creators.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round One

FIORENTINA-TORINO

Fiorentina: despite not changing all that much, the Viola have brought in some new interesting pieces during the transfer market window, such as Sofyan Amrabat, who is suspended in this one, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi, who seems poised to stay after a solid season at Inter. However, their coach and attack are the same, which means we can expect something akin to what happened in the restart, where Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli served as the main playmakers, Federico Chiesa was the most consistent scorer, while Christian Kouame, Dusan Vlahovic and Patrick Cutrone, all capable but otherworldly strikers, fight for one spot. The ex-Genoa forward seems to have separated himself from the pack a little during the summer. Bonaventura is supremely sneaky.

Suggested picks: Chiesa, Ribery, Kouame. Continue reading

Three Players to look out for in the new season

With the new season fast approaching in under a month’s time, it’s as good a time as any to look forward and prepare ourselves for another rollercoaster. Last season, the calcio faithful witnessed the rise of many unfamiliar faces, including the likes of Gaetano Castrovilli and Sandro Tonali among others.

As it is the case every season, there’s always a few talents that break through and take the next step in their careers. Without further ado, here are three players – all of whom you may be familiar with – that are primed for a breakout year.

Musa Barrow (Bologna): 

The Bologna striker moved to Emilia-Romagna in the January transfer window and has had an immediate impact for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men, netting nine goals in 14 starts. After using the second half of the season to acclimate himself to his new surroundings, expect Barrow to hit the ground running and could potentially fire a young Bologna side into an unlikely race for European football.

The former Atalanta striker is as dynamic as they come in the final third and has demonstrated a keen eye for goal over the course of his short career. Capable of finishing with both feet, Barrow is definitely one to watch next year. With Orsolini and Rodrigo Palacio playing off him, Mihajlovic’s men possess one of the league’s most intriguing frontlines.

Christian Kouame, Fiorentina:

The Fiorentina forward returned to action at the tail end of last season, after being sidelined for a significant part of the year recovering from an ACL tear. Prior to his injury, Kouame broke onto the scene as a relatively unknown youngster and took the Serie A by storm. Fiorentina is coming off a disappointing season, but with Kouame back to full fitness and with a full preseason in his legs, the Ivorian is ready to lead the line for La Viola.

Kouame is at his best when acting in a tandem with another striker, opening the possibility for a potential partnership with Dusan Vlahovic or Patrick Cutrone. The former Genoa man will be raring to go when the season starts and will be hoping to lead Fiorentina back into the upper echelon of Italian football.

Victor Osimhen, Napoli: 

The Nigerian international has already won over the Napoli faithful, scoring a hat-trick seven minutes and 33 seconds into his debut in a friendly on Friday. In many ways, he has picked up from where exactly he left off before his big-money move which bodes well for Gennaro Gattuso’s men. Osimhen is coming off an incredible season with Lille, where he scored 18 goals in all competitions, and he will be eager to translate that form to Napoli.

At Napoli, Osimhen will have the opportunity to form a truly deadly front three with Lorenzo Insigne and Hirving Lozano and will have the possibility to learn from the experienced Dries Mertens. He may have cost nearly 50 million euros, but Osimhen is the real deal and will undoubtedly show that with the Partenopei next season.

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