Serie A Best Team To Pick – Week 14

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Here is the suggested lineup for week 14. The scheme is a 3-4-3. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Striker Picks – Week 14

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Some juicy match-ups this week, there should be plenty of opportunities to score for the top strikers in the League. Continue reading

Juventus: from Legends Baggio & Del Piero to current stars Chiellini & Pjanic

We continue our interview with Rav Gopal, from JuveFC.com and discuss in detail his favorite Juventus players from the current squad as well as his expectations for this season and some of his favorite moments as a Juve fan.
 
Q1) For the current Juve squad, can you please rank your favorite player by position? 

Defense: Giorgio Chiellini. He is an extremely underrated defender who has rolled back the years in recent seasons to deliver consistent performances. Like Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon, he has remained loyal to the club and he is one of the best in Europe in his position.  Continue reading

Serie A Champions Juventus: From rising star Dybala to hardworking Mandzukic

We took the opportunity to interview Rav Gopal, founder and editor-in-chief of the popular site JuveFC.com. Factoring in his in-depth knowledge, we decided to pose a series of questions and Mr. Gopal did not disappoint as he offered his insightful views on everything pertaining to Serie A champions Juventus.

Here is Part One of our Q & A with Rav:

Q1) Gianluigi Buffon is considered by many as the best goalkeeper over the last 20 years, and is perhaps the all-time goalkeeper. Much has been said about him, but if you had to describe him in one statement what would you say?

Buffon has been the most consistently brilliant goalkeeper in world football, year in year out. He is a leader, a captain and a role model at Juventus and for 17 years, he has been the epitome of loyalty and class.

Q2) Where do you rank Massimiliano Allegri among active Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?                                                                       

Allegri is the best Italian coach for me. Antonio Conte is doing well at Chelsea but I feel he still has things to learn. Allegri is adaptable and flexible in his approach – he works the players hard, but not to the point of exhaustion.

He is a masterful tactician, but does not dwell on the football, day in day out. He is also a very smart individual and has a self-deprecating side to his character where he does nott take himself too seriously. I think it is a valuable quality. Worldwide, I think he is right up there with the best. For me, only Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola is better than him. Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane is still learning the game but has done great things so far.
  
Q3) At www.eurofantasyleague.com we have over 1,500 players to pick from, but one player is making a name for himself and fast: Paulo Dybala trails only 4 players in popularity, namely Messi & Neymar and 2 defenders! He is owned by 20% of our Fantasy Football Managers. What do you make of Dybala’s rise? How good can he become? 
Paulo Dybala

He has no ceiling at present. He grows with each season, plays across the attack and now has a maturity to him that was lacking before. The club has entrusted him with the #10 shirt and he has accepted the responsibility to be a leader of sorts, dragging Juve over the finish line and being at the heart of almost every league victory so far this season.

I would like to add the inevitable links to Barcelona are annoying as it is better to simply appreciate him for the Juventus player that he is – his great touch, finishing, dribbling, passing….all of it ! He will only get better with time and I think we have only seen a fraction of his true potential.

Q4) Mario Mandzukic is perhaps one of the most underrated players on the team. Juve fans have grown to love him but for other football fans they do not see the intangibles. Mind you even at www.eurofantasyleague.com we feel stats do not do him justice as he is ranked as 10th best Juve player in terms of this season’s Fantasy Football Points.  How important is he for Juve?
mandzukic
He is vital when you consider the effort he puts into each match. He is not just a forward, he plays on the wing when needed, pushes back opposing right-backs, has a strong presence in the air, tracks back, tackles well, scores goals, provides assists and defends down the left and in the center on set-pieces. Sometimes, to understand his value, you only need to switch off from the rest of the team and just watch him perform. A true workhorse who sacrificed individual glory for the sake of the team. You do not see that very often these days.
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Q5) Juve has many players out on loan, can you tell us which two are most promising and why?     

Mattia Caldara is a superb talent, very composed in his character and playing style. Rarely troubled by the occasion, he is showing real consistency for Atalanta and it is exciting to watch him, considering he has already developed into a hell of a player, despite his young age.

Riccardo Orsolini is a promising young winger, also at Atalanta, and he is starting to get opportunities in the starting XI. I think Moise Kean could be a real talent in the making but he needs to stay focused and keep working hard at Hellas Verona. He was a prolific goal-scorer for the Primavera and it is interesting to see if he can translate that form in senior performances.

 

Make sure to check back again in the next few days for the remainder of our interview. You can challenge some of the best Serie A fantasy football managers at www.fantasyseriea.com

Be sure to follow us on twitter @EuroFantasyGame  and follow Rav @juvefcdotcom

 

Juventus crowned Serie A Champions for 6th consecutive season!

Juventus not only made history but reaffirmed the club’s status as Italy’s best club after securing a sixth consecutive Serie A title. Frankly, there was never a doubt about Juve’s status as Italy’s best during this season, or as Serie A’s premier club for that matter.

It would be wrong to single out one or even two players as this was a group effort and almost every single Juve starter played a key role in this success. To begin with, Gianluigi Buffon was exemplary both as a goalkeeper and as a leader of the team. He did have a couple of mishaps with both the Azzurri and Juve, yet in typical fashion he responded with some impressive displays, particularly against Lyon in the Champions League.

Buffon

Defensively, it would be hard to find any football pundit who would argue against the Old Lady’s defensive unit being the best in the world. While Leonardo Bonucci has many admirers, among them Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, his fellow centre-back Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are as good if not better when it comes to fulfilling their defensive duties. Chiellini often dives first in to challenges and does not hesitate to sacrifice his well-being for the good of the team while Barzagli, even at 36-years-old, remains one of the best at anticipating the opponent as well as reading one-on-one situations.

It is perhaps in midfield where many expected Juve to crumble but the returning Claudio Marchisio has slowly but steadily returned to his consistent best while growing in stature with every game he plays. Juve’s management will be pleased to know that Marchisio will have a full summer to rest, recover & then train properly to return to his best. He is almost like a new signing. Speaking of new signings, former Roma schemer Miralem Pjanic has been one of the most underrated midfielder in both Italy & Europe this season.

While his stats, 5 goals and 8 assists in league action, do not scream at you, Pjanic has been pivotal for Juve’s success, particularly the club’s return to the final of the Champions League two years after the defeat to Barcelona. What makes Pjanic even more instrumental is the fact he sticks to playing simple football, keeps this Juve side ticking with his fast and slick passing while also remaining deadly from set-pieces.

In attack, Juve spent a fortune to secure Gonzalo Higuain’s signing and he repaid the club’s faith with 24 league goals along with some critical goals away at both Monaco, in Europe, and Napoli in Coppa Italia. Without Higuain, Juve might not be talking Treble today… And he still has the opportunity to silence his critics one more time in Cardiff when Juve take on Real Madrid.

As for Juve’s other attacking options, Paulo Dybala has matured into one of world’s best young attackers while Mario Mandzukic remains, as per his coach Massimiliano Allegri’s words, pivotal for the success of the formation employed since the defeat to Fiorentina in Serie A. Mario’s willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the squad has served not just as an example for his teammates to follow, but has also given Juve’s starting XI a sense of balance. Fans have seen Mandzukic track back countless times and that in itself is the greatest sign of how dedicated the Croatians striker has been to the Juve cause.

It would be wrong to end without mentioning the two flying Brazilian full-backs Alex Sandro and Dani Alves. The duo have become two of the most dynamic and important full-backs in the world. While Sandro continues to improve and grow into perhaps the world’s best left-back, Alves has proven his critics wrong and reaffirmed himself as the world’s best right-back at the moment.

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While Barcelona felt his time was up, Alves eagerly took on the new challenge of playing in a different league for one of the world’s elite clubs. While he stumbled early on and struggled to adjust, it was perhaps his injury which served to reignite the fire in the Brazilian. Prior to his injury, Barca might have felt justified in letting him ago, yet ironically Alves returned stronger than ever post-injury & gave Man of the Match performances on more than one occasion, particularly in the Champions League.

Juve fans will not forget his contribution against former club Barca, and will certainly remember his role in the two matches against Monaco in the semi-final of the Champions League. Alves scored from a stunning volley in the return leg against Monaco, a 2-1 victory for Juve, and then followed that up with another volley in the 2-0 win versus Lazio in the Coppa Italia.

While Alves deserves a lot of credit for his efforts and bounce back after early season struggles, no man deserves more respect and appreciation than coach Massimiliano Allegri. Mad Max was an unwelcome figure when he first joined Juve yet he has worked diligently the past three years not only to earn the respect of the fans but to prove to his critics that he is more than a capable coach.

To win the domestic double for three seasons in a row is an achievement we might not witness again in our life-time. It is truly the stuff of legends. Allegri’s legend continues to grow and if Juve do complete the treble in Cardiff, then it would be difficult not to consider him as the world’s best coach at the moment while solidifying his status as one of Juve’s best coaches in history.

While many stress on his willingness to change and his tactical flexibility, as highlighted by the change in formation following the league defeat to Fiorentina, Allegri’s greatest attributes are too many to recount. For one, he stepped in to replace Antonio Conte, an act in itself deemed to be foolish as in hindsight it would have been impossible to envision enjoying so much success under Allegri.

It is unlikely that the most optimistic of Juve fans would have expected Allegri’s Juve to win the domestic double for three seasons in a row. Add to that a Champions League final in 2015 and another final to be played in Cardiff, and it becomes even more difficult to express how great Juve has been since Allegri took over.

Pick you Juve stars, including Buffon, Bonucci, Dybala and others when you play www.fantasy-champions-league.com

Will Juve fulfill Buffon’s dream by winning the Champions League? All eyes will be on Cardiff on June 3rd…

 

Entertainment aplenty amidst World Cup qualifiers as Mandzukic stars for Croatia

Euro 2016

Prior to Croatia’s 2018 World Cup qualifier with Kosovo, Mario Mandzukic had not scored a goal this season.

In seven appearances for Juventus the 30-year-old Yugoslavian born striker has failed to find the net.

However he emphatically ended that goal drought by scoring a first half hat-trick to inspire Croatia to comprehensively beat Kosovo 6-0 in Shkoder.  Aside from Mandzukic, Nikola Kalinic and Matej Mitrovic and Ivan Perisic also scored for Croatia.

His goals were Mandzukic’s first in a competitive international since 12 June 2015 when he scored as Croatia drew 1-1 with Italy in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

With 27 international goals to his name, the former Atletico Madrid player is Croatia’s third top goal scorer, behind the retired duo of Davor Suker and Eduardo da Silva who scored 45 and 29 goals respectively.

Iceland stage remarkable late comeback

As a result of their success over Kosovo, Croatia sit atop of qualification group I on goal difference ahead of Iceland.  Heimer Hallgrimsson’s side trailed Finland 2-1 until the 90th minute, when Alfred Finnbogason equalised before Ragnur Sigurdsson scored five minutes into injury time to give Iceland a 3-2 win.

Another highly entertaining game in group I transpired since Turkey recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Ukraine.  Whilst Ozan Tufan Hakan Calhanoglu scored for Turkey, Andriy Yarmalenko and Artem Kravats of Granada had given Ukraine a commanding lead.

Arnautovic influential in Austria’s draw with Wales

Just as Mandzukic starred for Croatia to become the second player to score a hat-trick in the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign, after Robert Snodgrass achieved the feat for Scotland during their 5-1 victory over Malta, Austria were indebted to Marko Arnautovic for helping them twice recover from a goal behind to draw 2-2 with Wales in group D.

The 27-year-old Stoke City forward scored a double in reply to a superb strike from his club mate Joe Allen and an own goal by Kevin Wimmer.

Subsequently the draw between Austria and Wales combined with victories for both the Republic of Ireland and Serbia means the quartet are level on four points after two games.  Whereas Seamus Coleman scored as Martin O’Neill’s Ireland side beat Georgia 1-0, Serbia produced an accomplished display to overcome Moldova 3-0 in Chisinau.

Albania ascend to the top of Group G

After a goal from Filip Kostic, the English Premier League based duo of Branislav Ivanovic and Dusan Tadic also scored for Serbia, who fierce rivals Albania also secured an excellent away win by beating Liechtenstein 2-0.  The Albanians, for whom the influential Taulant Xhaka was rested, completely monopolised possession to earn a thoroughly deserved victory.

Italian’s extend unbeaten run in qualifiers

In doing so they retained their 100% record in this qualification campaign to climb to the top of Group G, two points of ahead of Italy and Spain who drew 1-1.

An expertly converted second half penalty from Danielle De Rossi ensured an extension of the Azzuri’s unbeaten record in qualifiers, either European or World Cup to 52 games, after Vitolo had capitalised on an error by Gianluigi Buffon to give Spain the lead.

Not since a 3-1 defeat to France during qualification for Euro 2008 have Italy lost a qualifier, which is a proud record Giampiero Ventura’s side will aspire to defend in their next game when they travel to face Macedonia, who lost 2-1 to Israel.

Evolution of wonderful World Cup qualification campaign continues

Therefore at present an extremely competitive and entertaining 2018 World Cup Qualification campaign is evolving, with many players and team producing outstanding performances, none more so than Mandzukic and his Croatian colleagues.

Play European Fantasy Football against your friends and colleagues, sign up now with Eurofantasyleague.com

Pogba and Higuain enjoying different starts

Manchester United vs Southampton United

During the past summer transfer market, Paul Pogba and Gonzalo Higuain were football’s biggest transfers. However, both players have enjoyed different starts for their respective new clubs, Manchester United and Juventus.

Pogba’s struggles

Pogba made the switch from Serie A to the Premier League, with the Red Devils putting a record fee of €105 million on the table for the French midfielder. That amount surpassed the €100 million paid by Real Madrid to Tottenham for Gareth Bale in 2012. However, it was considered a solid deal, as Pogba has massive marketing appeal and United expected a serious boost in shirt sales, for example.

On the pitch, however, the 23-year-old hasn’t been that impressive compared to his marketing numbers. Jose Mourinho has opted for a 4-2-3-1 line-up with his Old Trafford squad, playing Pogba in front of the defence alongside Marouane Fellaini and using Wayne Rooney as the team’s attacking midfielder.

Pogba became big in Juve’s 3-5-2 system as a box-to-box midfielder, running up and down the pitch and able to use his athleticism in his advantage. The France international always played alongside a deep playmaker, but in Mourinho’s system Pogba is forced to play that role. One that doesn’t suit him, as he’s robbed from his best attributes by playing too deep.

A role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which is now played by Rooney, could be a better alternative. But the best one is deploying a solid passer alongside Pogba, not a bruiser like Fellaini. Morgan Schneiderlin would fit the bill in this regard, or even Ander Herrera. This would free up Pogba’s box-to-box skills, as he doesn’t have to be the link between the defence and the midfield. The big reason why he’s been struggling so far.

Higuain’s perfect fit

Meanwhile, Higuain moved from Napoli to Juventus for a Serie A record €90 million. The 28-year-old turned up in Turin overweight and was mocked for being “too fat”. The Argentine striker was consequently forced to come off the bench for the Bianconeri’s first two games, against Fiorentina and Lazio, but started in place of Mario Mandzukic against Sassuolo.

After just 117 minutes in three league games, Higuain has already provided three goals for the Old Lady. He scored the winner against Fiorentina and hit the net twice against Sassuolo, one coming from a scissors kick. The Argentine became a star in 4-3-3 systems at Real Madrid and Napoli, but has already shown to be his old self in Juve’s 3-5-2. His relationship with Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic has already proven to be deadly.

Conclusion: one big transfer is not the other. Pogba has much to prove at United in a system that doesn’t suit his abilities, while Higuain is already fitting in at Juventus. Only time will determine how these summer moves will be judged in the future.

If you would like to manage your own fantasy teams by selecting your favorite players including Paul Pogba and Gonzalo Higuain, try playing Fantasy EPL and Serie A Fantasy.

Juventus edge closer to a Historic Fifth Consecutive Scudetto!

Juventus recorded an impressive 3-0 win over Lazio with rising star Paulo Dybala scoring a brace. Juve could have easily finished the match with double the final score and Dybala could have had a hat-trick, yet what matters the most for the Bianconeri and their coach Massimiliano Allegri is the fact the team secured another three points in the march towards the Scudetto.

Juventus - Napoli

It has been a remarkable turnaround for Juve with the team struggling in the relegation zone during the earlier weeks of the 2015-16 season. Injuries were quite detrimental for a young team trying to defend its league title not to mention the fact there were several new faces, including new hero Dybala, German midfielder Sami Khedira, experienced Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, promising defender Daniele Rugani as well as explosive Brazilian full-back Alex Sandro.

While the veterans such as club legend Gianluigi Buffon, versatile midfielder Claudio Marchisio, and ever-improving defender Leonardo Bonucci along with his fellow defensive partner Andrea Barzagli have been instrumental in Juve’s revival, the new faces have been as important to Juve’s remarkable comeback.

Dybala has already managed to score 16 goals in 31 league appearances (including 26 as a starter), Mandzukic has contributed 9 goals in 24 league appearances not to mention the countless times he tracked back to help defend, while on-loan signing Juan Cuadrado successfully played the role of a super-sub with four goals and five assists in Serie A. Cuadrado featured in 26 league games so far, of which as many as 12 appearances where as a substitute.

Paulo Dybala

Speaking of super subs, another new face Simone Zaza was decisive in the limited time he was afforded by coach Allegri. In Allegri’s defense, Zaza cannot be given a starting role when the likes of Dybala, Mandzukic & Alvaro Morata are all ahead in the pecking order and deservedly so. Zaza remains more of a passionate yet fiery and unpredictable player as witnessed by some of his rash tackles in most of his appearances and his sending-off against Genoa, a game Juve had to be alert to achieve a difficult 1-0 win. Zaza still had his fair share of contributions for the Juve case, particularly the winning goal against second place Napoli.

Juve’s season will soon be capped by a record-tying fifth consecutive Serie A title which will ensure the club’s place in the history books. Once achieved, Juve will become the first Italian side to win the Scudetto five times in a row on two occasions. However, this latest achievement will be more impressive considering Juve had to go through an overhaul in terms of players departing and joining Vinovo, as well as a host of injuries to key players including Khedira, Marchisio, Dybala, Mandzukic and particularly Giorgio Chiellini. There was also the health concern regarding Stephan Lichtsteiner with the Swiss defender sidelined for a month following a heart procedure to correct cardiac arrhythmia.

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The beauty of Juve’s success lies in the fact this glorious comeback cannot be attributed to two or three individuals but rather to several team players as well as coach Allegri and the club’s management, particularly Giuseppe “Beppe” Marotta and the often overlooked Fabio Paratici.

Juve’s strength has often been defined by powerful words such as team effort and determination. This specific group of players under the guidance of Allegri has been the perfect example of working together as one unit while displaying grit and relentless commitment.

Juve could seal a well deserved Scudetto as early as Sunday, April 24th when they take on Fiorentina in a tricky encounter. How rewarding would it be if Juve guarantee this historic Scudetto in one of the most hostile environments, in Florence, and against one of the teams who were considerably ahead of the Bianconeri earlier in the season?