Some juicy match-ups this week, there should be plenty of opportunities to score for the top strikers in the League. Continue reading
Juventus lost a bit of ground at the top end of the Serie A table this past week. Continue reading
Few midfielders found the bottom of the goal this week. Here are the top 5 performers. Continue reading
With further chapters in this season’s Serie A story having been written, Napoli’s lead at the top of Serie A was cut to a single point with Juventus breathing down their necks. Continue reading
Exploiting favorable match-ups is always a good idea when picking the lineup. Continue reading
A busy week in the Italian League as the teams played twice in three days. Continue reading
There are not many young fullbacks who have managed to assert themselves in Serie A this year. Injuries have also deprived the League of some of the best players in this position. Milan’s Andrea Conti had a marvellous season at Atalanta before his move, but went down early with an ACL tear; Emerson Palmieri is rehabbing last year’s knee issue and might struggle to re-take his job considering the strong performances of Aleksandar Kolarov. Massimiliano Allegri’s reclamation project, Mattia De Sciglio, has been temporarily interrupted by a big ankle sprain. Roma’s newcomer Rick Karsdorp has been sidelined since the start of his Italian career by a meniscus ailment and he suffered an ACL tear on his debut.
The two more consistent players have been Elseid Hysaj and Leonardo Spinazzola. Hysaj is only 23 years old but he immediately became a staple at Napoli. Maybe not the flashiest fullback, but he is extremely diligent and has great chemistry with José Maria Callejon on that flank. He is averaging 2.8 tackles, 1 interception, 1.9 clearances, 0.9 key passes per game, 0.1 crosses, 1.4 long balls per game per WhoScored. His offensive game is limited, but he fits in fine in a team with so many quality attackers, where he is assigned to defensive duties first and foremost.
Spinazzola pushed hard this summer to return to Juventus, ending the two-year loan spell early, but Atalanta managed to keep him and he continued to impress on the left. His growth in the past two seasons after being a journeyman in the lower leagues has been remarkable and Gian Piero Gasperini deserves a lot of the credit for finding him a role where he could thrive. A dynamo, he is averaging 2 tackles, 0.5 interceptions, 1 clearance, 2 key passes, 2 dribbles, 1.5 crosses and 3 long balls per game per WhoScored: he should not disappoint when he takes his talent to a bigger stage next season.
There is a clear drop-off after these two names. Inter signed Dalbert from Nice this summer, but his defence has been a little too shaky for Luciano Spalletti’s liking and so far the manager has preferred Yuto Nagatomo over him. On the other flank, the coach has stated that the other newcomer, Joao Cancelo, is nowhere near ready to play as a fullback because he is too offensive, so Danilo D’Ambrosio will continue having a firm grip on the job.
There are some interesting names in the less heralded teams, but neither is a slam-dunk prospect. Adam Masina seemed poised to make the jump to Sevilla this summer, but the deal fell through: he has been constant since emerging from Serie B, but he has not progressed much and still makes some blunders at times. Sassuolo’s Pol Lirola is excellent going forward, but struggling teams need big defensive contributions and that is his Achilles’ heel, so he has found himself behind the veteran Marcello Gazzola in the pecking order when Cristian Bucchi veered back from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3. He is owned by Juventus as well. Playing time has been hard to come by for another promising youngster, Torino’s Antonio Barreca, who has been slowed down by injuries. On a more positive note, Atalanta’s Hans Hateboer might not be as good as Conti, but he is still a very useful player with a ton of upside.
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The second international break, the first real one to be honest, arrives a month a half deep into the season and it usually allows some players to fully heal from early injuries, or even last year’s ones, giving the teams a small boost ahead of another busy stretch.
The most particular situation is Armando Izzo’s one: he was suspended for 18 months in April for match-fixing related charges from his time in Avellino, then the ban was cut short to 6 months because the allegations were substantially less severe. It looked like he could be pardoned with a month in advance, but he served the full sentence. Genoa’s defence has been shaky and could obviously use the help of a player who was on the edge of earning a call-up by Italy.
Juventus will have Claudio Marchisio back after a month-long specific program to strengthen the muscles around the knee he tore in April 2016: he has played only 62 minutes this season. Sami Khedira has featured a little more, but has been absent since late August: his status is a little murkier, but he is not that far from a full recovery. Their returns will give Massimiliano Allegri the option to use a three-man midfield. The Bianconeri will also soon welcome back Marko Pjaca from the ACL tear he suffered in late March: the attack is more crowded this season, but he will still be another weapon at their disposal.
Speaking of knee injuries, Inter’s Joao Cancelo sprained his MCL in late August: Danilo D’Ambrosio has been passable as right back, but the plan is to have two dynamic fullbacks like the former Valencia and Dalbert together to spice things up. Cancelo can also play as right winger, giving Luciano Spalletti more flexibility upfront. Emiliano Viviano is expected to be in full form pretty soon after a knee surgery in May: like most backup goalkeepers, Christian Puggioni is only reliable for short stints. Roma’s newcomer Rick Karsdorp went under the knife immediately after joining his new club to fix a meniscus injury and had some muscular setbacks afterwards: his availability will allow Eusebio Di Francesco to move Alessandro Florenzi around rather than using him only as a right back as Giallorossi are dealing with several absences in other areas. Bologna’s Cesar Falletti suffered a MCL and ankle sprain at the start of August: when he comes back, Roberto Donadoni could resume deploying the 4-2-3-1 he quickly abandoned because of lack of alternatives in the attacking midfielder position.
Roma are also awaiting the return of their prized summer acquisition: Patrick Schick, who has been on the shelf with hamstring problems. There is a lot of curiosity to see how the coach will integrate him in a tactic that has started to work very well, but does not include the striker’s natural role. Benevento anticipate having Amato Ciriretti back for the all-important game against Hellas Verona: he was their main creator last season and they have not got much from the right wingers they have used in his absence. They were able to use Marco D’Alessandro and Pietro Iemmello together for the first time against Inter and they showed some signs of life: they might actually be able to earn some points with the full frontline on the pitch.