In round 19 of Serie A, not many top players delivered, so the top XI is dominated by unsung heroes.
Mattia Perin: there were seven clean sheets this week, so all those goalies collected seven points. Perin gets the shout-out here thanks to his fantastic work on Saturday, where he had a couple of unreal saves, in particular denying Mbaye Niang and Alex Berenguer.
Stefan De Vrij: plenty of choices in the defence as well, as most of the Inter, Lazio, Benevento, Sampdoria, Genoa, Napoli and Torino players all finished with five points. The Biancocelesti left San Siro unscathed, which is not easy despite the opponents’ recent woes, and the Dutch centre-back distinguished himself with a pair of vital tackles late in the game. His contract will expire at the end of the season and he has not penned the extension: getting him for free would be a huge bargain.
Joao Cancelo: Luciano Spalletti did not trust him early on but his hands were forced over the last couple of weeks, in the Lazio game in particular, by the several absences in the backline. While the Portuguese right back needs some work defensively, he held his own and his offensive prowess is clear. With Danilo D’Ambrosio out with a knee sprain, he could have a chance to establish himself as a starter.
Kalidou Koulibaly: Napoli had little trouble containing Crotone’s rare offensive salvoes, once again displaying their solidity in the back.
Berat Djimsiti: it is always quite a feat when Benevento does not concede, so one of their defenders deserve a token spot. The youngster has made strides in his first season in Serie A and Roberto De Zerbi kept fielding him despite the return of the captain Fabio Lucioni, deploying a three-man line more often.
Marek Hamsik: he was the top midfielder as the goal and the clean sheet got his six points. It looks like getting past Maradona in the club’s scoring chart was a mental hurdle for him and he now plays more freely: he has scored in three games in a row after finding the back of the net only once in the first 16 games.
Blaise Matuidi: he was among the midfielders who garnered four points, mostly due to a goal. He opened the score in Verona-Juventus with a sneaky strike. He has become a vital part of Juventus because of his immense energy and he single-handedly made the 4-3-3 the go-to scheme instead of last year’s successful 4-2-3-1.
Simone Missiroli: his precise header off a great Federico Peluso cross got past Alisson and allowed his team to extend its excellent moment with a hard-fought point at Olimpico against Roma.
Simone Padoin: the beloved veteran rarely scores, but his goals are heavy. It was no different on Saturday, where he and Diego Farias combined beautifully after a blatant mistake by Leonardo Spinazzola, scoring the second goal which Cagliari successfully defended until the final whistle, conquering an unexpected win over Atalanta.
Fabio Quagliarella: he and Paulo Dybala were the top earners this week because of their braces. The seasoned striker came to the rescue against Spal, where he converted a penalty in the stoppage time and then punished the Estensi again with an easy finish two minutes later, leading Sampdoria to victory after a five-game drought. He has now scored to every opponent in Serie A over his illustrious career.
Paulo Dybala: donning some glamorous gold cleats, la Joya his back after three straight benches in Serie A. He was key in Juventus’ difficult win over Verona, as he solved the game with a sliding strike off a Stephan Lichtsteiner assist and five minutes later sealed the deal capping off one of his customary zigzags with a sweet righty finish.
Massimo Coda: Kevin Lasagna, Leonardo Pavoletti and Giovanni Simeone deserve some recognition because their goals last week were very influential, but none was bigger of Coda’s one, which finally allowed Benevento to win the first Serie A game in their history. He beat a defender, and the goalkeeper, with a well-timed deflection on a low cross. He appeared on his way out in January as De Zerbi constantly picked Samuel Armenteros and George Puscas over him, and the starter Pietro Iemmello will make his return fairly soon, we will see whether this will change things.
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