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

Best upcoming central midfielders in Serie A

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Differently from other positions, there is no shortage of excellent young central midfielders in Serie A. Besides Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who is among the league’s best outright, there are several upcoming players who have already earned primary roles in the top teams.

Unsurprisingly, two of them were raised by Atalanta and then moved to bigger clubs. Roberto Gagliardini joined Inter last January and his consistency has been a pleasant surprise, because he was lost in the shuffle prior to the 2016/2017 season. Gian Piero Gasperini trusted him, the Nerazzurri nabbed him quickly and he has been very reliable: he is not flashy, but an all-around midfielder, whose work is always precious. Franck Kessie is more muscular and explosive, but Milan got what they hoped for: a dominating presence in the middle of the field. Lucas Torreira’s play in the last two seasons has been superb: he is rather tiny but he is imposing in both phases, he has great feet and he is an excellent distributor. His full arsenal was on display in the last win over Chievo Verona. Continue reading

Best young defenders in Serie A

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Serie A is renowned for its strong defending and this year is no different. In a culture that values that side of the ball so highly, it is inevitable that centre-backs prosper and new youngster manage to establish every season. The best one so far has been Milan Skriniar: there was a little scepticism when Inter picked him as the lone reinforcement in that area, but he has been granitic. An all-around player with no clear flaws. The couple with Joao Miranda is among the league’s finest, if it not the best already. He is averaging 1.5 tackles, 1 interceptions, 5 clearances and 0.8 blocked shots per game, per WhoScored. He has drawn comparisons to a young Nemanja Vidic and Walter Samuel.

Mattia Caldara started the season late because of a summer injury and the U-21 European Championship, but he immediately went back to being the leader of the stout Atalanta backline. A rugged defender, he is a force in the air as his many goals testifies. He is averaging 1.7 tackles, 2.2 interceptions, 3.7 clearances and 0.8 blocked shots per game, per WhoScored. It will be his final season with the Bergamo club as Juventus already scooped him up a year ago.

His partner in the Bianconeri’s defence in the future will be Daniele Rugani. Massimiliano Allegri has been reluctant to thrust him in a bigger role, but in his limited appearances he has performed better than Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia. He is more of a finesse player compared to Skriniar and Caldara, but his physical game has improved over the last two seasons. The duo with Giorgio Chiellini will eventually end up being Juventus’ go-to pairing in big games. He is averaging 0.4 tackles, 0.6 interceptions, 3.2 clearances and 1 blocked shots per game, per WhoScored.

Alessio Romagnoli has struggled at the start of the season, due to a tough summer where he had to deal with a meniscus injury and because the whole new Milan defence has not gelled yet. However, he remains squarely among the best Italian prospects in this role. There is no reason why a Mateo Musacchio-Leonardo Bonucci-Romagnoli backline should not work: the process simply takes some time. He is averaging 0.8 tackles, 1 interception, 4.2 clearances per game, per WhoScored.

One rookie quickly rose to the upper echelon of young defenders: Torino’s newcomer Lyanco. It is not easy for youngsters to win over Sinisa Mihajlovic right away, but he managed to do just that. He is only 20-years-old and he has immense potential. He has beaten out Emiliano Moretti and Kevin Bonifazi for the starting job, unfortunately he has suffered an ankle sprain that will sideline him for a while.

There are a couple names in the smaller clubs that are worth monitoring. Sampdoria worked hard this summer to get Gianmarco Ferrari from Sassuolo, but Marco Giampaolo so far has preferred Vasco Regini over him, not so subtly inviting him to practice harder. He is talented and should end up playing a lot. Francesco Vicari is in a tough situation at Spal, but he is holding his own as anchor of the defence and he is one of the few highpoints of the Ferrara team.

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Best young goalkeepers in Serie A

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It has not been an easy start of the season for young goalkeepers in Serie A. There have been a couple of highpoints, but most of them are stuck on bad teams and have inevitably conceded several goals. The two best ones are relatively surprising. Lazio’s Tomas Strakosha came out of nowhere last season after an injury to Federico Marchetti, but firmly managed to beat out the veteran goalie afterwards. A very explosive player, he has capped off a terrific start with a game-winning save on a Paulo Dybala penalty in Juventus-Lazio.

Roma’s Alisson has not had the same flashy plays but, after a year as an understudy behind Wojciech Szczesny, he has been extremely reliable. He has improved his game, eliminating the small blunders of the past. It also helps that Roma has had so far one of the best defensive phases in the League: they have allowed only five goals, tied with Inter and Napoli as league’s best.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is obviously a generational talent and he is head and shoulder above the other prospects. Unfortunately, Milan’s defence has been very leaky and he has not been able to save the day. After an incredible 2016/2017, a slight regression could be justifiable, but he was not severely at fault in any of the 13 goals already conceded by the Rossoneri. He will have plenty of suitors next summer if Milan does not qualify to Champions League.

Mattia Perin has become an established name in Serie A: at 24-year-old, his acrobatic and daring style has proved to be effective. Knee injuries have slowed him down in the past, but if he had a clean year from that standpoint it could be time for him to make the jump to a bigger club. Alessio Cragno returned to Cagliari as a starter after a productive loan spell at Benevento: he has shown some flashes, but he has been a little inconsistent and has had to endure a couple of small physical ailments. The Sardinian club has also one of the worst backlines in Serie A.

Alex Meret is supposed to be the next great Italian goalkeeper, alongside Donnarumma, unfortunately he has yet to play this season because of the dreaded sports hernia. Alfred Gomis has started in his place at Spal so far and has been serviceable. Meret is owned by Udinese, like Simone Scuffet, whom Udinese gave the starting job this summer over Orestis Karnezis. However, the youngster has not been able to recapture his 2013/2014 form, when he had an impressive debut in Serie A. A few big mistakes costed him his spot, which has been given to the experienced Albano Bizarri.

There are a couple of talented goalkeepers still regularly sitting on the bench. Lukazs Skorupski was excellent last season at Empoli and he was Roma’s fall-back plan if Alisson disappointed, but that has not happened and they might be better off moving him in January. Pierluigi Gollini has played here and there at Atalanta, but Etrit Berisha has still a firm grip on the starting job.

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Napoli the most convincing team after seven games

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After a very busy 20-day stretch, Serie A has reached the second international break, so it is the right opportunity to take a breather and examine where things are at, especially on top of the table. The start of the season has had more confirmations than surprises and the real contenders have already been able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Napoli are alone on top of the standings as they have been perfect so far: 7 wins out of 7. It is the culmination of two years of work under Maurizio Sarri. The Partenopei take great advantage of the most prolific attack in Europe: Dries Mertens, José Maria Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne have insane chemistry and Marek Hamsik broke his unusual drought. They have scored at least three goals in every domestic game. The Azzurri had some troubles only in the home game against Atalanta and on the road in Ferrara, but they managed to come out of top in both occasions. Arkadiusz Milik has not been missed as they have so many weapons on the roster.

Juventus could have easily been on top as well, had they not fumbled away a win that was within reach in Bergamo: they had a 0-2 lead and also missed the 2-3 penalty late in the game. The Bianconeri have not necessarily looked as commanding as Napoli, but they got the job done most of the time. Without Leonardo Bonucci, the defence has not been as air-tight as in the past, but the high-powered offered is carrying them. Paulo Dybala is Serie A’s leading scorer, Gonzalo Higuain got out of the short slump and Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado have contributed greatly: they even have room for improvement once Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi will be fully integrated. Newcomers Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur have been very helpful in light of the injuries in the midfield.

Inter have collected as many points as Juventus: the Nerazzurri had an explosive start, dismantling Fiorentina and Roma at San Siro, but then tailed off a little, but only from the performance standpoint, because the satisfactory results kept coming. The last three wins against low-table teams have either arrived late or been narrower than expected: the attack has plateaued, but they have been able to manufacture random goals. They have great goalkeeping and a rock-solid defence and Milan Skriniar has been as stout as they could have hoped.

Lazio and Roma are slightly behind as they have already lost a game. The Biancocelesti succumbed against Napoli mostly due to defensive injuries, but their latest run has been nothing short of amazing: without most of their centre-back and half of their attack, as Felipe Anderson and Luis Nani have been non-factors due to physical ailments, they have been automatic against the smaller clubs. Simone Inzaghi and Ciro Immobile are the main actors, Luis Alberto is the revelation that solved a lot of problems upfront. Roma are surging: they have played one fewer match because the Sampdoria fixture has been postponed, but after the loss against Inter they have resembled their last season’s selves. Edin Dzeko is scoring at will and the backline is very solid. Eusebio Di Francesco has been able to come up with creative solutions to deal with a slew of injuries and their play has not suffered. If the teams on top slowed down, they could be in the running for Scudetto.

Serie A will return with a bang in two weeks: Juventus will host Lazio, Roma will square off at home against Napoli and it will be time for the Milan derby. The Rossoneri have quickly dropped out of the title race as they are dealing with chemistry and defensive issues, but the game against Inter could be an opportunity to gain some ground in the table and advance their candidacy for a Champions League spot, but they need to turn things around quickly.

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Can Milan build on opening day triumph?

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It was a heart-in-mouth moment for all Milan supporters. Yet as they dreaded another mixed start to a new campaign, Gianluigi Donnarumma showed why he is one of Italy’s brightest young talents. The 17-year-old saved Andrea Belotti’s injury time penalty – the last kick of the game – to ensure Milan held on for a 3-2 win over Torino.

A match which could have gone either way, thanks to Carlos Bacca’s hat-trick and that late penalty save it went in favour of Vincenzo Montella’s team. The boss got off to a winning start, but former Milan Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was left to wonder how his Granata side left the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza empty-handed.

A sigh of relief and a smile for Milan. Unlike in two of the past three seasons they are on the board after the opening 90 minutes. Bacca, linked with a move away from Milan during pre-season, carried on from last season’s form and will be an important figure in their quest to return to European competition. That, Bacca says, is his aim this term. Former striker Andriy Shevchenko believes he must improve his teamwork, but for now Montella will be happy with his scoring touch. M’Baye Niang and Suso combined with the Colombian to form an intriguing attacking trident – one which can be developed – but Andrea Bertolacci’s injury and the near-collapse in injury time almost ruined Montella’s debut.

Milan cannot get ahead of themselves. Coming up this weekend is a daunting trip to Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli. The Partenopei opened the season with a comeback 2-2 draw at newly promoted Pescara and so will be eager to go into the international break with a win to their name.

For Montella’s men it is an early test of character, just as the final moments against Torino were. “We need to work on keeping our concentration for 90 minutes and this victory will help,” Montella said after Sunday’s success.

Early successes in past seasons, notably under Filippo Inzaghi, were met with hopes of grandeur, both on and off the pitch. That cannot be the case again or Milan will risk slipping into old habits.

The Stadio San Paolo has been a barren ground for the Rossoneri since 2010, with three losses in five subsequent visits. But this is a massive early test for a Milan team which is hoping its spell in purgatory will come to an end.