Here is the suggested lineup for week 14. The scheme is a 3-4-3. Continue reading
Some juicy match-ups this week, there should be plenty of opportunities to score for the top strikers in the League. Continue reading
A busy week in the Italian League as the teams played twice in three days. Continue reading
Things are starting to look incredibly tight at the top of Serie A. Continue reading
The relegation race in Serie A is mostly going as planned: the freshly promoted teams, Benevento, Hellas Verona and Spal, are knee-deep into it, alongside a couple of sides that have gravitated in those positions in the past, such as Cagliari and Genoa. The only mild surprises are Udinese and especially Sassuolo, which were expected to be a tad better and avoid troubles. The season is long and they will probably pull away in the upcoming months, leaving the battle to the first five.
There have already been a couple of head-to-head matches down there and Crotone showed they have a little advantage over the other contenders. In the last two games, the Sharks easily defeated Benevento at the Scida stadium and then came away from Ferrara with a tie. Two massive results. Spal built last season’s promotion on their home performances and they will struggle mightily if they do not rack up points at the Mazza stadium: they still looked better than a couple of competitors, but their road map is clear and the opportunities are slim. Hellas Verona and Benevento have looked very disorganized and have been heavily hit by the injury bug.
Crotone lost a good amount talent in the summer, because their best players were either on loan, such as Diego Falcinelli and Lorenzo Crisetig, or because they sold them before or during the season and then temporarily took them back, like Gianmarco Ferrari and Leonardo Capezzi. However, they have worked well in the summer and managed to replace almost all of them.
Crotone confirmed Davide Nicola on the bench, and they could not have done otherwise after the incredible late comeback last season. As a result, they have a clear idea of who they are and what they need to do. They have a basic tactic and a straightforward game plan: they will be end up being outplayed by better teams more often than not, but they always put up a fight and have more experience in these situations. They are scrappy.
In the summer, they brought in several players, almost in a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” type of mentality. Arlind Ajeti seems to have overtaken Leandro Cabrera as starting centre-back: he does not have Ferrari’s upside, but he is a gritty defender. Marco Davide Faraoni is more solid than Mario Sampirisi. Rolando Mandragora has been as good as anticipated: a highly touted prospect at Genoa, he suffered a couple of big injuries, but now that he is being given consistent playing time he is back on track. The midfield duo with Andrea Barberis is sneaky interesting. They could find at least one more solid contributor in the crop of remaining newcomers: Daniel Pavlovic, Oliver Kragl, Stefan Simic, Giovanni Crociata and Aristoteles Romero.
The one area they definitely need to improve is in the attack: they scored only four goals, all in the last three games. The coach is still searching for the right combination, but it has been difficult to replace Diego Falcinelli. The returning Ante Budimir has not been as efficient as in Serie B, Marcello Trotta has surprisingly been given little playing time, and Simy is mostly an off-the-bench, late game weapon, but he does have intriguing skills given his size. The coach seems to prefer having a pure centre-forward and a second-striker, but Aleksandar Tonev and Andrea Nalini have both spent time on the shelf and have not find the right condition yet. If Budimir does not work, Nalini-Trotta could be the most explosive couple or they could try Adrian Stoian there as well. Unfortunately, Marco Tumminello suffered an ACL tear: they desperately wanted a youngster who could provide a spark and maybe play more carefreely, without being burdened by the standings. They missed out on Patrick Cutrone, but the Roma striker looked promising and already scored: he could be helpful down the stretch.
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After four games, there are still five teams that have yet to win a game: Benevento, Hellas Verona, Crotone, Sassuolo and Genoa. While the first three were expected to tough time and to be involved in the relegation race this season, the other two are a bit more surprising, but not shocking. Serie A presidents are famous for their quick trigger when it comes to sacking their coaches, so these situations need immediate turnarounds. The midweek match day could accelerates the process.
Benevento is the most desperate team as it is at the bottom of the table with no points. They fought against Sampdoria, Bologna and Torino, but they were defeated by a single goal in all three fixtures. On Sunday, they were dismantled by Napoli. Marco Baroni did a brilliant job last season, but he is a rookie in the top league and the rumours about replacing him with a more seasoned coach, such as Stefano Colantuono or Davide Ballardini, are ramping up. They will face Roma today and Crotone on Sunday, which will likely decide the fate of the manager. He will have to work some magic because some of his best players, such as Amato Ciciretti, Marco D’Alessandro and Andrea Costa are sidelined by injuries.
Despite having one point, Hellas Verona is the squad that has looked the worst so far: they have drawn against Crotone, but they were badly beaten by Napoli, Fiorentina and Hellas Verona. The schedule has not helped, but their defence has looked too vulnerable and their playing style is still undefined. Furthermore, Fabio Pecchia has engaged in a pointless skirmish with Giampaolo Pazzini and has constantly picked some players with no experience as false-nine over his leading scorer last season. Injuries have hit them hard as well, depriving them of Alessio Cerci and of a lot of depth. Despite the promotion, they were never too convincing last season in Serie B. They will square off against Sampdoria on Wednesday and Lazio on Sunday.
The closer to getting the axe appears to be Ivan Juric. He was confirmed this summer despite a tumultous season, where he was fired and then called back, but his stint could be short-lived. They had decent outings against Sassuolo, Juventus, Udinese and Lazio, but only a point to show for it. According to the rumblings, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi has already contacted Walter Mazzarri and a name of this magnitude does not help Juric’s chances of holding onto the job. They will face Chievo Verona on Wednesday and Inter on Sunday and he has to hope that the wonderkid Pietro Pellegri continues to score and that the defence tightens up.
The remaining two winless teams are Sassuolo and Crotone. Cristian Bucchi has just switched his tactic to a 3-5-2 but they were defeated by Atalanta and Juventus. They performed well against Nerazzurri, while the Old Lady is on another level. In this case, the management will likely be more patient, as they have been in the first season in Serie A with Eusebio Di Francesco. However, he needs to come up with points in the next two games, against Cagliari and Bologna. Davide Nicola will have some more leeway as well at Crotone after last year’s miraculous comeback to avoid relegation. The Sharks are still scoreless and will take on Atalanta in the midweek match and Benevento in the weekend.
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Oh, what it is to be a striker in Serie A. Joining the likes of legends such as Filippo Inzaghi, Hernan Crespo, Christian Vieri etc…..Well, with the Serie A campaign well and truly underway, it’s now time for the forward men in Italy’s top flight to step up and make a name for themselves – or continue doing so, at least.