Italy’s 2-1 win over Germany in Thursday night’s second semi-final not only upset the odds, it disrupted the plans of plenty Fantasy managers after heavy investment in Joachim Low’s squad prior to the previous day’s deadline. As many now look to restructure their squads in order to get an edge on mini-league rivals ahead of Sunday’s final, picking up the correct Italian players seems the best hope of a rise up the rankings in what is now essentially an all-or-nothing punt:
With only four free transfers afforded to Fantasy managers, those near the top of the leaderboard or mini-leagues will likely add to their Spanish contingent but for those willing (or needing) to take a risk, we have a look at some of the best options available from Cesare Prandelli’s likely lineup from a Fantasy tactical perspective.
A relatively hefty price tag of 7.0, in addition to a thigh injury that saw him sit on the sidelines for the quarter-final with England, means the Juventus defender currently sits on just 6% ownership. For those who heavily invested in the German backline, drafting in more Spain defenders now is unlikely to help their overall ranking, suggesting a route into Italy’s defence looks the best tactical alternative.
Chiellini has picked up at least one extra point for recovered balls in every match he has lasted 90 minutes – indeed, his opening group game against Spain harvested a total of 10 as Prandelli’s side kept their opponents’ attacking threat mainly under control. Tactically, Prandelli has rolled out a 4-3-1-2 for three games now but the Group C opener saw him field a 3-5-2 and restrict Spain to six shots on target – Chiellini looks nailed-on regardless of formation, though we will, of course, get a heads-up on the starting XI prior to the 7.30pm deadline.
Daniel De Rossi
Playing as part of a back-three for the first couple of games has restricted investment in the Roma midfielder, with Andrea Pirlo the obvious choice in Prandelli’s midfield. While he’s yet to produce any attacking points, a look at De Rossi’s displays suggest there is definite potential. He provided more goalscoring opportunities for his team mates than any player in the Germany game and fired off six shots against England – second only to Mario Balotelli.
Priced at 9.0 he doesn’t come cheap but, with a mere 3% ownership, he could well prove a worthwhile option for those Fantasy managers looking to move on the likes of Mesut Ozil or Bastian Schweinsteiger in light of Germany’s exit. De Rossi has also produced recovered ball points in all but one of his appearances so far, indicating his crucial ball-winning ability regardless of position.
Has established himself as Prandelli’s preferred option for a role in “the hole” behind Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano over the last couple of games and vindicated his manager’s decision with a superb assist in the win over Germany. Bearing in mind that three of the four most popular midfielders in the McDonald’s game will be lining up for the opposition, Montolivo – priced at just 6.9 and with an ownership of just 6.3% – is another overlooked Azzurri option that has the attacking potential to produce.
A bit obvious but if you’re going all-out for an Italy triumph, he’s a must-have. Currently owned by 36% of Fantasy managers, Pirlo is the most popular midfielder in the game and, with set-piece duties in his locker, has played a part in three of Italy’s six goals to date. The tournament’s stand-out campaigner so far, the stage could well be set for Pirlo to guide his nation to the most unexpected of success stories – he has also earned an extra point for recovered balls in three of his five appearances, further adding to his potential for those Fantasy managers mulling over handing him the armband.
The win over Germany saw Balotelli finally deliver on the potential he has threatened all tournament. A look at the McDonald’s scoreboard shows that he is just two points ahead of Antonio Cassano by 18 to 16 but the 8.5 priced forward has been far and away his nation’s main goal threat. With Cassano dropping deep and playing a more creative role, Balotelli has fired 24 shots over his five games in comparison to the Milan man’s tally of 14.
After his exploits against Low’s side, Balotelli has risen to a 22% ownership – Cassano is 17% in comparison – and for those Fantasy managers looking to make up ground, he may well be the best armband contender for Sunday evening’s encounter. Balotelli’s game time also looks more assured than his strike partner – Cassano has been subbed off in every game so far, leaving the pitch around the hour mark on three occasions.
A Word on Spain
Analysing the current ownership of both teams, Spain are markedly more popular than the Azzurri, with eight of the “Most Selected XI” from Vicente Del Bosque’s side. Aside from their tag as favourites going into Sunday’s showdown, this is also down to consistency of selection – Del Bosque has been kind to Fantasy managers in the respect that 10 players have started all five matches.
Perhaps an alternative tactic for those backing the Spanish, then, is to target the least popular players from their starters. Sergio Ramos and Alvaro Arbeloa currently reside in just 14.4% and 15.1% of Fantasy teams respectively, despite their four back-to-back clean sheets. At this point in the tournament, budget shouldn’t be an issue for most and, with Ramos at 8.0 and Arbeloa at 7.0, they are relative differentials within the Spanish set-up, with Jordi Alba owned by over 46% in comparison. Xavi looks an intriguing option at just 8.7% ownership – priced at 9.5, he is an easy swap for those shedding their sides of Ozil and Schweinsteiger and has been neglected by the vast majority thus far. Granted, the Barca man has yet to produce in the tournament but it’s all about punts at this stage for many.
The central role up front is where the only real issue of concern is. Although Alvaro Negredo looked an intriguing prospect at 7.8 when named to start for the semi-final showdown against Portugal, his less than impressive performance places huge question marks over his chances of maintaining the role. Del Bosque may replicate the lineup for the Group C game against the Azzurri, which saw Cesc Fabregas starting and Fernando Torres handed a chance from the bench; again, though, we’ll have plenty notice prior to kick-off to tinker with our final squad selections.
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