Predicting How Well Italian Clubs Will Do in the Champions League This Season

For those who don’t know, this should turn out to be an exciting season for Serie A clubs in the Champions League!  It will make for an exciting season for calcio fans and hopefully, we’ll see all four Serie A clubs in the semifinals of the Champions League. However, based on my predictions for each of them, that’s unlikely. So, here is how I think the Serie A clubs will do in the Champions League this season!

   1. INTER MILAN 

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                              Image Credit: edition.cnn.com

Inter will be playing their first Champions League match this season against Slavia Prague today at 12:55 pm Eastern Time. When Inter fans and members of the club envisioned who would be in their group, no one anticipated that they’d be in the group of death. Indeed, Lionel Messi will return to the San Siro for the second consecutive year to face Inter. Inter is also joined by Borussia Dortmund and Slavia Prague in this group, making it very tough to get through to the round of 16. In all honesty, I predict that Inter will finish third in the group, as they will be with two clubs in Dortmund and Barcelona that are juggernauts in Europe and it may be too much for this Inter side. However, they could definitely surprise many people.

2. NAPOLI

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Image Credit: http://www.espn.com

While, Napoli were in a favorable position before the draw began, I don’t think they could’ve anticipated an easier group on paper than they’ve gotten. Make no mistake, no Champions League match is simple, but the group Napoli got dealt is one of the most simple they could’ve gotten. Yes, they’re with the 2019 Champions League winners, Liverpool. But, other than that, they’re with Genk and Red Bull Salzburg. Considering, Napoli’s group as well as the fact that they made some key signings over the summer in Hirving Lozano, Kostas Manolas, and Giovanni Di Lorenzo, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t get in second place in the group and get through to the knockout phase of the competition. Their first match will be later today against Liverpool at 3 pm Eastern Time.

3. JUVENTUS

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                                  Image Credit: thenational.ae

Juventus shocked their fans with some of the moves they made in the summer. Many fans were left scratching their heads with some of those moves or lack of moves that weren’t made. However, that’s all behind us and the season has started. They’ve been drawn in a decent group with Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, and Lokomotiv Moscow. I predict that Juve should get through to the round of 16 in second in this group. However, the sky is the limit for this club if they play at their best. Not even the beasts at Atletico Madrid can stop them. Their first Champions League match will take place at 3 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday!

4. ATALANTA 

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                                Image Credit: acmilaninfo.com

Atalanta will make their first ever Champions League appearance on Wednesday at 3 pm Eastern time against Dinamo Zagreb. They got drawn into a group with Manchester City, Shakhtar donetsk, and Dinamo Zagreb. Based on their position heading into the draw, it was inevitable that they’d be drawn into a tough group. This will be a very tough group for Atalanta, but the good thing is they don’t have high expectations heading into this competition, so it might actually work in their favor. I predict that they’ll finish in second in their group behind Man City. I hope they demonstrate their quality in this group, as I feel their an underrated club coming into competition. They could very well make some noise this season.

I’ve predicted three out of the four Serie A clubs in the Champions League this season to qualify for the champions League round of 16. But, hopefully it’s all four clubs!

 

 

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Three Countries That Should Host Serie A Preseason Matches

In the past couple of years, Serie A TV rights have expanded across the globe like crazy. According to http://www.footballbenchmark.com, Serie A’s revenue from international TV deals has increased more than double since 2018. This demonstrates how far Serie A has expanded its reach. So, I thought it’d be fun to list three countries that I think should host Serie A preseason matches in the future.

    1. CANADA 

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                                            Image Via: impactsoccer.com

  While, the great white north is known for having very passionate fan bases in hockey and other sports, in Canada we also have a huge community that loves Italian Soccer. For fans that love soccer in Canada, it is a fact that Serie A is the only major European League being broadcast on cable TV in the country. Also, Canadian calcio fans like me, need another match here that involves at least one Serie A club, as the last time we had such a game was in Toronto was in 2014, when Milan faced Benfica. It would also be interesting to see a game happening at Stade Saputo in Montreal, where the Montreal Impact play. For those of you that don’t know, the owners of the Montreal Impact also own Bologna. So, that’d be interesting to see Bologna play another Serie A club there as well.

2. COLOMBIA 

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Image Via: http://www.90min.com

If you’ve been paying close attention over the past several seasons in Serie A, you’ll notice that many talented Colombian players seem to want to play in Italy. Napoli almost bought the best current Colombian player in world football this past summer in James Rodriguez. So, I believe there’s a need to promote the league in Colombia now more than ever. Imagine, if Luis Murillo and Duvan Zapata were still on Atalanta next summer and they faced Sampdoria, who has another Colombian star on their squad in Jeison Murillo. Also, imagine that it was at Colombia’s biggest stadium, Estadio Deportivo Cali! That would make for a special and unique atmosphere. Also, there’s a good chance that a match like that would spark a massive amount of interest in Serie A within the country.

3. ARGENTINA

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                                                  Image Via: http://www.planetfootball.com

The country of Argentina has had a connection with Italy for many years. There have also been many greats from Argentina that have stepped on Italian soccer fields such as Diego Maradona, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti and Gabriel Batistuta. The list is almost endless. Also, Italian legend, Daniele De Rossi recently made a move to Argentina to play for Boca Juniors. I think it would be a spectacular experience to witness two clubs that are close to Maradona’s heart in Napoli and Boca Juniors faceoff at the iconic La Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires, wouldn’t you agree? Also, it would be unreal if Roma travels to the exact same stadium and faces De Rossi on his current club. I believe that because both players from Italy and Argentina have a history with each other’s clubs, it’d be a great place to promote Serie A.

 

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, Serie A’s broadcasting rights from abroad has increased significantly lately. As a result, I believe there are certain countries where Serie A can expand its promotional activities in order to earn even more revenue from TV rights abroad. Also, by promoting the league in a variety of countries with these friendly matches, it’ll only help each club increase their revenue as well.

3 Takeaways From Italy’s Euro 2020 Qualifying Campaign So Far

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                                            Image Credit: http://www.skysports.com

    Coming into this campaign, Italy needed to start rebuilding for the future  to return to what they once were and  so far, they’ve done that under Mancini. Here are my three takeaways of Italy’s Euro 2020 Qualifying Campaign, thus far.

    Roberto Mancini Has Called Up A Lot of Young Players 

    Coming into this, fans of the azzuri wanted to see Mancini call up players to the national squad that were younger, as under Ventura, we all know what happened and it just so happened that  throughout the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Campaign there  were a lot of older players there. Even if these younger players haven’t gotten the desired playing time for the club they represent, Mancini still seems to call up as much young players as possible. So far, many of these players haven’t disappointed and I hope Mancini keeps recognizing the talent of some of these young guns and continues to bring them to the azzuri’s squad.

    Italy Has Flourished Offensively Under Mancini 

       So far, in this qualifying campaign, the Italian national team has scored 18 goals with 4 matches remaining. Whereas, in 2018 World Cup Qualifying, they scored a total of 21 goals. A big reason for this has not only been Mancini’s implementing of a new philosophy, but also the wingers he’s deployed to play alongside the strikers. For many years, Italy has relied on a talented number 9 to carry the load in terms of goals. However, by calling up wingers such as Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa and others he has taken the pressure off the starting striker to score and that has benefited them significantly.

The Amount of Goals They Conceded Has Reduced

   During 2018 World Cup Qualifying, Italy conceded 9 goals in total. Whereas, in this campaign, they’ve only conceded three goals, which is a significant difference. Although, it could change. But, on the surface you’d wonder why this has happened, as Italy has played a more offensive style, which leaves them more exposed at the back, right? Well, think again. By pressing so high up the pitch when they don’t have possession, they’ve slowed down the flow of their opponents offensively. Also, as a result of an improved central midfield, it’s now way more difficult for opponents to enter Italy’s half, which makes it harder for the opposition to be in good attacking positions. I hope this continues, as it’ll be important should they qualify for the 2020 Euros next summer.

Previewing Lazio vs. Roma

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                        Image Credit: http://www.90min.com

     The event of the day in Rome will happen at 12 pm Eastern time today and should not disappoint. Both clubs will want to get ahead, as they’re going to most likely compete for a spot to qualify for the Champions League next season. This blog post will preview both Lazio and Roma heading into this match!

    Previewing Lazio Heading Into This Match

    The Derby della Capitale should be a cracker. Lazio made a huge statement in their opening match of the season, as they won 3-0. Immobile looked in his usual form and Lazio didn’t look vulnerable whatsoever in this match. However, Roma is definitely a tough opponent and based on the way they play, it’ll be a handful to deal with for Lazio. Lazio has also tended to be inconsistent over the last few seasons, which has prevented them from qualifying into the Champions League. Fans of the blucerchiati are hoping that they will brush off that inconsistency and take Rome’s biggest derby. It’ll be fascinating to watch.

Previewing Roma Heading Into This Match 

    After Paulo Fonseca’s first game in charge of Roma, one thing has become clear. The need for an upgrade of their backline is necessary. They were at home last week and still managed to only get a draw vs. Genoa. Against Lazio, they will need to immensely improve their defensive tactics because their local rivals have a significantly better attack than Genoa. However, they did sign Chris Smalling from ManU on a loan. That should help their defense, for sure. But, who knows if he’ll be in their starting lineup for the derby. Roma fans will be happy about their attack, though. They scored 3 goals and looked very fluid and dynamic. This front line can cause tons of harm to Lazio. However, in order to win this match, their defending will need to improve immensely from their first game of the season.

This match should be one to remember and I’m hoping both clubs will be at their best during it. Thanks for reading this blog post! Be sure to follow my blog. Follow my Instagram, @calciofanblogs, my Twitter, @calciofanblogs1 as well as liking and following my Facebook Page, Calcio Fan Blogs. Also, be sure to connect with my LinkedIn account, Joseph Porco.

Chiellini’s Injured, Now What?

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                                           Image Credit: bbc.co.uk

    Yesterday,  Juve were dealt a devastating blow, and no it wasn’t finding out their Champions League group. It was the announcement that their captain and star defender, Giorgio Chiellini, tore his ACL during training. This will have a huge impact on Juve’s squad and may hinder their performance as a whole. However, one of the questions to ask is whether Juventus can cope without him for so long, given their current squad.

   How Will Chiellini’s Absence Impact Juve’s Defense? 

    Chiellini’s absence from Juve’s squad will have a huge impact on them tactically and mentally. First of all, it’ll possess a huge impact on their ability to defend. Chiellini is a crucial player for Juve, not just because he reads the game so well or defends at a worldclass level. He is the only defender that Juve has that does not push so high up the pitch when they’re attacking. He rarely ever gets caught for being too high up the pitch and Juve needs that. This is because while Bonucci and De Ligt are both great defenders, they tend to like to get more involved with play high up the pitch, which leads to them being exposed on the counterattack. Also, it’s no secret that their abilities to defend don’t compare to Chiellini’s skills at this position. Another way Chiellini’s absence will affect Juve’s backline as well as the general squad is the leadership that will be missing when he’s gone. Chiellini is Mr. Juventus, as he’s been playing at the club since he was a child. He rose up through the youth ranks and is now a true leader that the bianconeri will miss on the pitch.

                                                Can Juve Cope With Chiellini’s Absence? 

    As a Juve fan, the thought of Bonucci being without Chiellini as his centreback partner scares me. Last time Chiellini was absent from the field, Bonucci led Juventus’s backline and they got eliminated by Ajax in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2019.  However, Juve did end up buying Ajax’s brightest young centreback, Matthijs De Ligt, during the summer. He will definitely help make up for that absence a little bit. However, without a defender like Chiellini, it’ll be almost impossible for them to win the Champions League this season. Without Chiellini, it’ll be tougher to cope in all three competitions that they’ll compete in this season. I hope it ends up working out for Juve.

I am really hoping that Chiellini will return during the season to help Juve win all the competitions their competing in. However, it’ll be a massive adjustment and Maurizio Sarri will need to get his squad to adapt if in fact, Chiellini will be out for as long as they say he’s out.

Previewing Juve VS. Napoli

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                                            Image Credit: http://www.skysports.com

   There will be two amazing matches this upcoming weekend in Italy. The first one wil be between Napoli and Juve and the second one will be between Lazio and Roma. These should be awesome matches. I will preview the match between Juve and Napoli in this blog post. Then, in another blog post that will come out on Sunday at 10am Eastern time, I will preview the Lazio vs. Roma match. Anyways, let’s get back to this blog post!

                    Previewing Juve Before This Match 

It’ll be interesting to see who Juve places on the field in this crucial match. Last match, they got the job done in Parma and won 1-0. However, in that match, many of the new signings did not see gametime, which I found to be a bit odd. I hope we see some of Juve’s new signings play in this thrilling match! However, Sarri will not be behind the bench once again on Saturday, as he’s battling pneumonia. Last match, Juve did play the Sarriball style that we’ve been accustomed to seeing with Sarri as the bench boss. However, in the second half, it seemed as though they were a bit fatigued. Luckily, they were able to hold off Parma. Against Napoli, I want to see Juve be smarter with their pressing. By that, I mean if their midfielders and forwards press Napoli’s defense, their backline shouldn’t be so high up the pitch. I noticed that against Parma, Juve looked vulnerable to fast counter-attacks because their defense moved too high up the pitch, making it easier for them to be suspect on the defensive end. I understand that pressing an opposition’s defense high up the pitch is the style Sarri likes to use with his squads, however, if the backline maintains such a high line, they will get burnt. Napoli is the type of club that can make you pay for mistakes like that.

    Previewing Napoli Before This Match 

   In Serie A’s first week, Napoli showed that they can score, as they got 4 goals on-route to a 4-3 win vs. Fiorentina. It was a tough stadium to play in for Napoli, as they had not won in that place for 5 years before last Saturday. However, they got the job done. Against Juve, I’m hoping their new signing, Hirving Lozano, gets some time to shine on the pitch. He should be fun to watch. Also, I’m wondering how Ancelotti will get his players to approach this game, as they’ll be away in Turin at one of the toughest stadiums to win at in Europe. One thing is for certain, their defense really needs to improve if they are to send a message to the bianconeri and get a good result. While, Napoli’s offense looked like they were top class last week, their defense looked like the complete opposite. But, if I were Ancelotti, I’d take a more cautious approach to this game than last week because you don’t want to be vulnerable at the back with names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Douglas Costa coming at your backline.

   One thing about this game is certain, it will be an intense match. Both Napoli and Juve will want to get off on the right foot at the beginning of the season because it only gets more difficult to get results as the season goes along.

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Previewing Inter Milan vs. Lecce

Every other Serie A club will play on both Saturday and Sunday except for Inter Milan and Lecce. However, this match should be intriguing like the rest and is worth previewing. So, here is the preview of this Monday’s match for both clubs.

    Inter 

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       Image Credit: sempreinter.com

     Over the last couple of months, Inter has vastly transformed itself in terms of their manager, as well as some of their players. Before the summer transfer window, Inter hired the always animated, Antonio Conte, to be their man behind the bench. For many, this marks a change from Inter’s recent years, as Conte expects the best out of his players and doesn’t take any nonsense. Also, Inter have vastly transformed their player personnel on the field, too. First off, they’ve sold a key player in Radja Nainggolan and loaned out Ivan Perisic to Bayern Munich. They’ve also given Mauro Icardi, who was their star striker for many seasons, the number 7 to wear. Inter have signed some good players in Diego Godin, Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, and Romelu Lukaku over the course of the summer, as well. As a result of these changes, many within the nerazzuri fan base expect them to compete for the scudetto this season. Monday at the Stadio San Siro against Lecce will be a good test for them to begin to see if they’re capable of winning Italy’s coveted prize this season.

                                                                             Lecce 

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Image Credit: trnews.it

        For Lecce’s fans and people who work for the club, this upcoming season may be very memorable. The club has been through trouble, as they’ve had to win promotion from Serie C (Italy’s third division) to Serie B (Italy’s second division) in the 2017-2018 season. Then, they finally got promoted to Serie A for this season. It will be very exciting for this club to be in Italy’s top flight once again, considering the struggle they’ve went through in recent years. However, they haven’t been very active in the summer transfer market. But, that is understandable considering they’re a newly promoted side.  Their first match will see them travel to Milan to face an Inter side that could challenge for this season’s scudetto. It’ll be a very steep test for this newly promoted club. However, they don’t have much expectations coming into this season, so they could very well catch Inter off guard. There is no doubt that they cannot miss a beat on Monday, if they’re going to get something out of it. However, sometimes low expectations can help clubs more than they hurt them.

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The 4 Most Underrated Clubs Heading Into the 2019-2020 Serie A Season

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Image Credit: calcioefinanza.it

   When Serie A fans discuss this upcoming season, clubs like Juventus, Inter, Napoli, and even Fiorentina are mentioned. However, in my view, there are a few clubs that are not talked about enough and even underrated. So, I will discuss who I think are the 4 most underrated clubs heading into the 2019-2020 season.

4. AS ROMA 

   The giallorossi have been very busy in this summer transfer window. They sold a key defender for them in Kosta Manolas and it’s almost like the floodgates opened after that, as they made many big signings. Notable ones include Gianluca Mancini, Pau Lopez, Jordan Veretout, and Leonardo Spinazzola. They also signed a few more players. However, despite all this, many fans and pundits don’t believe they’ll get a Champions League spot for next season. However,I beg to differ. Many underrate this club and under the leadership of new manager, Paulo Fonseca, they may regret that, as Roma will come back with a bang this season. Last season they missed out on the Champions League. This season, I don’t see it happening.

3. LAZIO 

    Lazio has not made any huge signings this summer. However, I still think they’ll make a splash in the upcoming Serie A season. Simone Inzaghi is an underrated manager and he could very well lead them to new heights. However, Lazio are a club to watch out for, not because of the money they’ve spent, but, the player they’ve been able to keep. Based on many rumors, it would’ve seemed nearly impossible for Lazio to keep star midfielder, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic at the beginning of the summer. However, they did. Now with some smaller additions, this Lazio squad could shock many Serie A fans and really do something extraordinary.

2. ATALANTA 

Atalanta did something that was uncalled for last season, they qualified for this season’s Champions League by placing third in the last Serie A campaign. They haven’t made a huge splash in the transfer market, as you’d expect a club going into the Champions League would. But, they’ve made a couple key signings. One is Luis Muriel, who will add firepower to that already jaw-dropping attack. Also, they bought Martin Skrtel, who will provide crucial veteran presence in the back for Atalanta. This club may now be playing in multiple competitions, but look for them to shock the calcio world once again, like they did last season.

1. SAMPDORIA 

For those who’ve read some of my blog posts, it is obvious that I admire Eusebio Di Francesco as a manager. His style of play is exciting and the heights he can get his squads to reach is remarkable. Sampdoria will just be another one of those squads that he improves. Sampdoria acquired Colombian centreback, Jeison Murillo, on loan from Valencia this summer. That’ll be huge for them in the back. Also, many people are writing this Sampdoria squad off. But, it seems as if they can elevate their level of play and possible earn a Europa League spot for next season. I wouldn’t bet against Eusebio Di Francesco or this Sampdoria side. So, watch out for this club, as they should make waves in this upcoming Serie A campaign.

To conclude, I am excited to see how these underrated clubs do in this upcoming league campaign. However, what I am most excited for is watching the upcoming Serie A season happen. The new Serie A season begins at 12 pm Eastern Time today and I absolutely can’t wait to see these and other clubs in action once again.

 

 

 

3 Reasons Why Mario Balotelli Will Prevent Brescia From Getting Relegated Back Down to Serie B

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Image Credit: http://www.bleacherreport.com

It was announced late last week that Mario Balotelli would be returning to Italy. Not only that, he returned to play for his hometown club, Brescia. For this club, it’ll be an exciting season, as Balotelli will be upfront alongside young Italian phenom, Sandro Tonali. However, they still need to stay up in the Serie A, which will be a tall order. Here are the reasons why I think Balotelli will help them do that.

 

REASON#1: HIS TALENT WILL KEEP THEM UP IN SERIE A 

With Mario Balotelli, his problem in the past has not been his eye for goal or his goal scoring instinct, it has been what he has done off the pitch as well as in training. However, I strongly believe that his time with Brescia will be different. The reason why I think it’ll be different is because he’ll be playing for his hometown club and there’s  something about representing your home in sports that gets the best out of you. If Balotelli doesn’t cause trouble off the pitch, his talent will really stand out and  for opposing clubs, it’ll be scary to go up against.  He’ll also play alongside Sandro Tonali, which should help Brescia avoid relegation.

 

REASON#2: HIS TROPHIES AND EXPERIENCES IN TOP COMPETITIONS WILL HELP BRESCIA AVOID RELEGATION 

For those who have followed Mario Balotelli throughout his career, it is well-known that he’s competed in the biggest competitions in world football. He’s won league titles in Italy and England as well as winning Europe’s golden prize, the Champions League. Indeed, his accomplishments throughout his career should inspire the rest of Brescia’s squad to perform, which should help them stay in Serie A. I personally believe that because he’s won all these trophies throughout his career, he’ll inspire and motivate the squad to perform at a higher level than they already do. This should help Brescia stay up.

 

REASON#3: HIS HEART AND DETERMINATION ON THE FIELD WILL PREVENT BRESCIA FROM FALLING BACK DOWN TO SERIE B 

Anytime Mario Balotelli steps onto the field, the one thing many people never doubt is his heart and determination. He can be arrogant and get into trouble at times on the pitch, but when he has the ball at his feet he shows the determination that a striker needs to score. That’ll help Brescia avoid the fall, as he’ll inspire the squad to be bold, confident and determined on the field. With the determination that Balotelli has, they could very well upset some Serie A heavyweights and cause headaches for opposing clubs.

 

Watching Mario Balotelli at Brescia will definitely be something to remember and I hope to see his full potential on display for Brescia this upcoming season in Serie A.

 

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Inter Buying Lukaku

 

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Image via: http://www.goal.com

For a few years, Antonio Conte has really wanted to sign Lukaku. At Chelsea, they missed out on him when Conte was there. Luckily, Conte got his man during this summer. It’ll definitely be something to see. I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of signing Lukaku.

 

                     DISADVANTAGES 

                   Lukaku’s First Touch 

     For those who have watched Lukaku ever since he made his debut, it’s obvious that his first touch of the ball after receiving a pass is average at the professional level, if that. Antonio Conte will have to find a system where his players feed the ball to Lukaku in a way where he doesn’t have his first touch weakness exposed. In other words, long balls on the counter are not advised, considering this weakness.

                  Lukaku’s Ability to Track Back 

      When watching the beautiful game, many people neglect the fact that strikers have to track back and defend once they don’t have possession of the ball. A big weakness of Lukaku is his ability to do this very thing. Antonio Conte’s system requires and pushes players upfront to track back. Antonio Conte will have to motivate Romelu Lukaku to do this more. If Lukaku does that, he’ll definitely be a threat to any opposition.

 

    ADVANTAGES 

     Lukaku’s Pace 

       One thing that people tend to forget about Lukaku is just how fast he really is. For a striker of his size and stature,it’s really impressive that he can run as fast as he can. He’s able to run in behind defenders and reek havoc on any back-line once he actually receives a good pass from his teammates. That’ll definitely be a huge asset for him heading into the Serie A season.

        Lukaku’s Physicality 

     Lukaku may not score the prettiest goals, but his strength and size allows him to out muscle most defenders, especially in the 18-yard box. His physicality allows him to the dirtier areas, which helps him score goals. When  he is attempting a header inside the box, it looks as though he was born to head the ball in the back of the net, as he out muscles defenders for those types of goals.

 

 

All in all, I think that Lukaku will do well in the nerazzuri colours, as he has the assets to do well for them. For Antonio Conte and Lukaku’s teammates, it’ll be a matter of getting the best out of him.