Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.
With the Serie A season coming to a close, many of the league’s relegation-bound sides will be putting their best players on the market. Needing to trim their wage bill, some players will be available cheaply, opening the room for bargains. Every year there’s a few players that stick out from the rest, and frankly deserve better than a season in Italy’s second division. Here are three players who might be worth a look into for Italy’s mid-table sides.
Chievo – Mariusz Stepinski (Striker)
In his second season in Italian football, Stepinski has grown immensely as a forward, and has done his best to lead Chievo’s misfiring front-line. While goals proved hard to come by in Verona this season, the Polish forward found the back of the net six times, two of which came in the early goings of the year against Juventus and Roma.
At just 24 years old, Stepinski deserves another shot at top flight football, albeit with a more progressive side. Simply put, any side in the bottom half of the table could make do with his services.
Midfielder Sofian Kiyine could also be of interest to sides looking to bolster their midfield with youth, and has demonstrated he’s more than capable of holding his own.
Empoli – Ismael Bennacer (Center Midfield)
The Empoli midfielder has been in sensational form this season, and has done exceptionally well at the heart of the Tuscan’s midfield. Bennacer has proven equally capable of shielding the back four, as he is spreading the ball as evidenced through his five assists, and is undoubtedly ready for a bigger club. With many of Serie A’s sides missing a link between attack and defence, the Algerian could prove to be an under-the-radar, low-cost option.
However, English giants Arsenal reportedly have a lowly 6 million euros buy-back clause in the 21-year-old’s contract, and are worth monitoring themselves. With Empoli’s Serie A status in doubt, expect Bennacer to be on the move come summertime.
Teammate Francesco Caputo, and his 15 goals, are also worth mentioning, but his age may prove to be a deterrent for most sides. In any case, the striker could prove to be an interesting option for the newly-promoted sides.
Frosinone – Camillo Ciano (Attacking Midfielder)
With Frosinone going down to Serie B, many of their players will be available rather cheaply. While loanees Francesco Cassata, and Andrea Pinamonti are of great interest, they will return to their parent clubs Sassuolo and Inter respectively. If either is available again, they should definitely be made priorities. However, Serie A’s mid-table to lower tier sides would be wise to focus their attention on attacking midfielder Camillo Ciano.
The 29-year-old has proven effective in a front two, and is versatile enough to play behind the striker as well. His seven goals and four assists illustrate he’s worthy of Italy’s top flight, and will undoubtedly be on the radar of the newly-promoted outfits looking for goals, and creativity in the final third. As he is nearing 30 years old, Ciano could prove to be a bargain.
Sportiello is worthy of consideration, as well, but is coming off one of his poorer seasons since establishing himself as a number one within Italy.
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Mattia Perin (7 points): several clean sheets in this round and among the goalkeepers that managed to do so, the Juventus one had the most impactful performance, denying a strike by Nicola Sansone with an eye-popping save.
Armando Izzo (9 points): Torino once again stymied their opponents with a great collective effort and, on top of that, the centre-back broke the deadlock pouncing on a loose ball in the box.
Elseid Hysaj (7 points): he is generally not particularly flashy on offence, but he delivered on Sunday with a terrific touch with the outside of his foot to spring Piotr Zielinski free. Continue reading
Standings implications: the top two teams, Juventus and Napoli, both prevailed, albeit in opposite fashion, against the Emilian teams Bologna and Parma, and so the gap remains untouched going into their clash. Milan and Roma stayed hot: the Rossoneri smoked Empoli, while the Giallorossi won it at the buzzer in Frosinone and they are now both within striking distance from Inter, who tied in a crazy one in Florence. Torino upended Atalanta and are now tied at the sixth position in the ever-changing Europa League race, where Sampdoria return in the picture thanks to a narrow victory over Cagliari. SPAL gained a point over the relegation strugglers in the Derby with Sassuolo and Genoa and Chievo shared the spoils too. Continue reading
Milan-Empoli: the Rossoneri are coming off a humungous win over Atalanta, the second in a row after they had disposed of Cagliari and they have not lost since in 2019, maintaining a slim advantage over Roma in the Champions League race. The Azzurri snapped an eight-game famine on Sunday, where they had picked up only two points and lost seven times. The Devil will not have Suso due to a suspension, which opens up minutes for either Samu Castillejo or Fabio Borini. Needless to say, Krzysztof Piatek continues to be amazing and his clutchness is remarkable because he does not get as many feeds as other top Serie A strikers. Hakan Calhanoglu finally bagged one last week and they will rely more on their playmaking with Suso on the stands. Continue reading
Juventus-Frosinone: the Bianconeri quickly bounced back in Sassuolo after the 3-3 draw with Parma and have won four times in the last five fixtures, fortifying their lead in the standings. The Ciociari have been pesky recently and they are coming off a surprise win over Sampdoria, their second in a row on the road, and they are now within striking distance from the 17th spot. With Champions League just around the corner, Cristiano Ronaldo might be rested for the second time in Serie A, which would mean more scoring opportunities for Mario Mandzukic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala, or whoever will compose the front-line. Continue reading
Napoli-Sampdoria: the Partenopei had a disappointing two-game meeting with Milan, as they did not manage to beat them in the weekend and then got got in Coppa Italia. They are undefeated at home, where they have won four games in a row, often scoring multiple goals. The Blucerchiati are coming off a thumping against Udinese, their fourth W in the last six fixtures and they lost only to Juventus since the beginning of December. While Lorenzo Insigne is stuck in a prolonged drought, Arek Milik has done most of the damage for the Azzurri up front, with Dries Mertens chipping in from time to time and some contribution from José Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski, but not in a consistent way. Continue reading
Few worthy candidates in this round, but Frosinone were the only one to dispose of their opponents on the road, therefore earning the shout-out. The Ciociari had won just one game thus far and were overwhelmed by Atalanta just last week, drawing harsh criticism from Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis who said that they did not belong in Serie A. They answered on the pitch with a dominating display against Bologna and they are now * points behind the 17th placed
Regular starters Lorenzo Ariaudo and Francesco Zampano are sidelined with injuries, while Joel Campbell left during the weekend a little out of the blue, so Marco Baroni chose Bartosz Salamon in the back, Paolo Ghiglione on the left flank and Camillo Ciano and Andrea Pinamonti up front. Differently from last week, Francesco Cassata was selected over Luca Valzania in the midfield. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus surged past Lazio late and saw their lead swell because Milan and Napoli shared the spoils. The Rossoneri remain fourth due to some ties behind them. Torino torpedoed Inter at home and re-emerged in the Europa League race. It was a Sunday of comebacks, as Atalanta erased a three-nothing lead against Roma and SPAL proceeded to win the game after being down two-nothing in Parma. Fiorentina outlasted Chievo in a rollercoaster of a game. Sampdoria and Sassuolo easily took care of business in the early Saturday matches, smoking Udinese and Cagliari. Frosinone surprisingly pounded Bologna on the road, re-emerging in the relegation race and putting the Felsinei in real trouble. Continue reading
Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available. Continue reading