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

Montella already facing a critical juncture of the season

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Milan have won all Europa League games so far and four out of six in Serie A: some would call it an excellent start, but the two losses, against Sampdoria and Lazio, did show some worrisome signs and the coach Vincenzo Montella is under heavy fire. The two slip-ups arrived in the toughest games they have faced and on Thursday they blew a 2-0 lead against Rijeka before Patrick Cutrone put them back on top in the final minutes.

They had an impressive reinforcement campaign, but it is now up to the coach to accelerate the adaptation process and make the players jell, because Serie A waits for nobody. They tend to play down to the level of the competition: the European fixtures have been extremely easy so far, while in the domestic league they have defeated Crotone, Cagliari, Udinese and Spal. The only game where they had truly a great showing was the opener at Ezio Scida, but there they were helped by a penalty and red card against the Sharks after five minutes. They were never too convincing in the remaining games, even in wins.

With so many turnover in the summer, you can chalk most of the problems up to lack of chemistry, but there might be some deeper issues underneath. At Olimpico against Lazio, they crumbled after Biancocelesti found the first goal and the more they tried to attack, the more Ciro Immobile and teammates punished them with counters. At Marassi against Genoa, it was a no show: they let the opponent control the ball and the pace and they inevitably conceded two goals. At times, they look too disorganized from the belt up and so they are forced to improvise a lot.

While the attack has always produced, but never too explosively in Serie A, the defence is holding them down. The switch to a three-man backline has not had the expected results: Leonardo Bonucci has not been able to recapture his Juventus form and Alessio Romagnoli has made some silly mistakes. Mateo Musacchio has been their best centre-back so far, but he was inexplicably benched for Cristian Zapata in the Sampdoria game and he literally gifted two goals to Blucerchiati’s Duvan Zapata.

If something does not work, it is up to the coach to figure out the next move, because the 3-5-2 has damaging effects in other areas: Suso has not been the same in a more central position. Furthermore, it is not an easy task, but Montella needs to find a way to have all his best players on the pitch at the same time, at least in the key games. He has alternated Giacomo Bonaventura and Hakan Calhanoglu, who needs to play as consistently as possible after being sidelined for half a season, and the three strikers Nikola Kalinic, André Silva and Patrick Cutrone. It could be helpful to establish a hierarchy upfront.

In a weird move, the coach has let go his long-time assistant Emanuele Marra because they were not on the same page regarding the physical preparation of the team. After the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, who is always in play when it comes to the Milan bench, the sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli reassured Montella about the stability of his job. Two tough games await Rossoneri: Roma on Sunday and the Derby after the international break. Since they have been struggling against the better squads, they need to redeem themselves in the upcoming massive tilts. Or some changes could be forthcoming.

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Conti’s injury as untimely as it gets for Milan

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A big news rocked Milan on Friday: Andrea Conti suffered an ACL tear in the left knee during a practice. He will undergo surgery and he is set to be out for at least five months, meaning that will return in March at the earliest, in April more realistically. Milan signed Conti this summer from Atalanta for €25M after a lengthy negotiation.

Against Austria Wien, Vincenzo Montella changed his formation from a 4-3-3, which had some depth issues, to a 3-5-2, that was briefly experimented in the pre-season as well. In the pre-game presser, the coached stated that it was a natural tactical evolution considering the arrival of Leonardo Bonucci, a three-man defence master, and that he was simply waiting for the return from injury of Alessio Romagnoli to use it consistently. The poor showing against Lazio, where the team looked extremely vulnerable, evidently speeded things up. Rossoneri easily defeated the Europa League opponent, with Hakan Calhanoglu shining in the midfield and André Silva scoring a hat-trick.

Conti was set to be a big weapon in this formation as he is tailor-made to be a wing-back. Playing in this position helped him ascend to the top echelon of Serie A fullbacks last season. Conti has a knack for scoring: he excels in making those sneaky cuts past the last defender and is a good finisher, both with his feet and his head. He tallied eight goals and provided four assists last season at Atalanta.

Milan are numerically equipped to replace Conti: they have two more right back at their disposal in Ignazio Abate and Davide Calabria. However, there is a gulf quality-wise and there were good reasons why revamping the fullback corps was a point of emphasis in the transfer market window. Abate can run but he is poor crosser and his finishing skills are non-existent, Calabria is a youngster who has yet to flourish and has struggled at times.

There is a solid chance that the one wing will look clipped, therefore making the formation unbalanced and predictable: Ricardo Rodriguez and Calhanoglu or Giacomo Bonaventura all gravitate on the left side and, without a threat like Conti on the other flank, focusing on that area will be an easy adjustment for the opponents. In this formation, Suso features as no.10/second-striker. He thrived last season when he was permanently moved to the winger position, but at this point he should have enough confidence to play more centrally. Anyway, this development could push Montella to tinker with the standard scheme, advancing Calhanoglu or Bonaventura a little and having Suso slightly moved to the right, making it a 3-4-2-1 that could soften the blow of Conti’s loss from the tactical standpoint.

It would be a stretch, but if Abate or Calabria did not produce enough, they could think about adapting someone there. Suso would be the first option, even though you would burden an exquisite offensive player with heavy defensive tasks. Bonaventura has always been very versatile and hard-working: he has played a little bit as left wing-back in the past, but he is right-footed and that would smooth the transition. Considering the splendid early returns on Calhanoglu as a midfielder, Bonaventura would find himself on the bench most often than not with this new lineup and that would be a waste. The final option is Fabio Borini, who has become an utility player after starting his career as a striker: the learning curve would be steep, but he might be able to pull it off.

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Milan finished only once piece shy from a complete summer

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After a long wait, the much anticipated Chinese era at Milan started in full effect this summer and Li Yonghong delivered what he promised. The reinforcement campaign was glorious and the sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli was one of the stars of the summer, closing deals left and right and pouncing very quickly on some bargains. Rossoneri signed eleven new players for the first team, investing a grand total of around €240M, without considering the various formulas used for the transfers and the money they got back in some sales. Continue reading

Top Five Fantasy Football Midfielders – Serie A

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Assists and goals are precious for a midfielder in Fantasty Football League and here we will take a look at the top five midfielders from Serie A that should be in your team. We feature Suso, Ivan Perisic, Mohamed Salah, Gregoire Defrel and Merek Hamsik. All contenders for a decent return this weekend.

Milan midfielder Suso is having a terrific season and on the back of two goals last weekend against rivals Inter, he is a player on form and should be a massive danger to Empoli. Incredibly, he is valued at just 2.5M and has been the second best performing midfielder in Serie A this season. His Price/Performance ration of 16.4 has to be one of the highest in the league and with sixteen points gained in his last three matches he should be one of the first names down on the team-sheet.

Mohamed Salah leads the way for midfielders in Serie A this season with a massive return of 48 points. He doesn’t come cheap at 9.5M, but the goalscoring midfielder is on fire this season with eight goals, four assists and two clean sheets. As Roma face up to third bottom Pescara at the weekend, this is a chance for him to build on his total for the season so far and you can see Salah in action at the Stadio Olimpico with tickets on sale now at https://www.footballticketpad.com.

Slovakian star, Marek Hamsik has been a steady performer for Napoli and although they are not quite hitting the heights of last season yet, one would expect them to be a lot closer at the end of the season. The midfielder has chipped in with three goals, two assists and four clean sheets and as they are at home to Sassuolo this weekend, they should have enough to win this match, keeping a clean sheet in the process.

Ivan Perisic, Inter’s Midfielder had a decent match against Milan last time out. He scored one and assisted one, following on from his previous match where he scored and kept a clean sheet. This has boosted his points total to 21 for the season and with a crucial, winnable match against Fiorentina, he is certainly worth consideration.

Jasmin Kurtic has been outstanding in the middle fo the park in a season where Atalanta have impressed. He has accumulated a total of 23 points in his twelve starts and with a match against Bologna, they have a great chance of winning. He is valued at just 3.5M and it may be worth taking a chance on him producing the goods.