Marco Giampaolo joined Milan, but Sampdoria made a splash with their new hiring as they have picked former Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco, who has inked a three-year contract, as announced by the club on Saturday. In the last three seasons, the Blucerchiati finished tenth twice and ninth in the most recent one.
Di Francesco was sacked in March after being eliminated in Champions League’s round of 16 by Porto due to a combination of disappointing results, they were outside of the top four spots, and locker room turmoil. He had led the team to the third position and to a deep run in Europe in his first season in the Italian Capital. Continue reading →
Samir Handanovic(95 points): Inter led the League in clean sheets (17) and he took advantage of the fact that Wojciech Szczesny (71 points), the starter of the closest team, Juventus (16), was sometimes rested. The Nerazzurri captain had one of his finest seasons, coronated by terrific performances and superhuman saves. In order to fully understand his worth, you do not need to look much further than what happened in the final match against Empoli.
Armando Izzo (75 points): he made the final leap in the season that just ended, showing an unseen level of charisma on top of his usual grit and physicality. Torino had a tremendous year defensively, but he also showed up on set pieces with four goals, which significantly increased his haul. Continue reading →
Standings implications: Atalanta held on to dear life against Juventus and took home a point that allowed them to pull even with Inter in third position, but they are up head-to-head, as the Nerazzurri fell apart in Naples. Milan stay in the hunt one point behind them after defeating Frosinone, while Roma need a miracle since they bungled the Sassuolo game. Torino fizzled out of the Europa League race since they were topped by Empoli. In the race to avoid relegation, the Tuscan Azzurri leapfrogged Genoa, while Udinese and Parma punched their ticket for next year’s Serie A by topping SPAL and Fiorentina, Cagliari by tying with the Griffon. La Viola is very much in the thick of it since they will square off against Genoa next week, over whom they hold a three-point lead. Empoli will pay Inter a visit. Bologna got the job done with a point on Monday too.
In Italy Juventus and in particular new signing Cristiano Ronaldo had it all their own way once again. Winning the league with weeks to spare and an 8th successive title. Ronaldo seamlessly joined the club from Real Madrid last summer and became the first ever player to win a Premier League title a Spanish one and then an Italian league. But there was one trophy he wasn’t able to get and it may have been his most jarring- the top goal scorer award which went to Fabio Quagliarella.
A former Juventus player himself Quagliarella now plays for Sampdoria and had a fantastic season scoring 26 goals in all and winning the trophy for top goal scorer. But what has been even more impressive about the player is that he seems to be getting better with age. His 26 goals are the most he has scored in a season and he is now 36. Indeed the season before he netted 19 goals which is his 2nd best campaign.
Of course Ronaldo will be content with a Serie A league title in his debut season but as everybody knows the Portuguese player loves statistics and loves scoring goals and one has to wonder if not landing the prize as top goal scorer has left a bad taste in his mouth?
Or is it simply that Ronaldo is running out of gas? Ronaldo’s haul of 21 league goals is his worst since he was in the Premier League playing with Manchester United in the 2008/09 season. While that sounds shocking he has only played 30 games this season in the league, the last time that happened was in the 2013/14 season with Real Madrid where he was able to score 31 goals, 10 more than this season.
Ronaldo is 34 and it would only be natural that his level would go down, or simply it could be a different manner of things. We should remember that he went the first few weeks of the season without scoring for Juventus, even though he had some superb chances and sometimes was simply unlucky. Purists will point to the fact that Italian football is better defending and seen as an art in the league and that is the reason that Ronaldo has scored his lowest tally in the league in a decade.
It will be fascinating to see how Ronaldo reacts next season, for now Juventus will be massive favourites to win another league title, their 9th in a row perhaps? And that will mean that Ronaldo will get plenty of chances to score goals, maybe he just needed that first season to fit in.
Juan Musso: only a late consolation goal denied him a clean sheet against Frosinone, while in this round he and Udinese might be able to take advantage of the fact that SPAL have already clinched the permanence in Serie A.
Nicola Murru: Sampdoria are not a reliable away team, but they will square off against Chievo and their league-worst attack. The fullback, who has put together a strong season, might be able to pick up some bonus points at the other end too. He might miss the game, so his replacement Bartosz Bereszysnki could be a sound choice, even though not as convicing.
Lorenzo De Silvestri: he collected two assists in the last game against Sassuolo and he has a deadly connection with Andrea Belotti, so Il Gallo’s strong form has benefitted him too. Empoli are fighting for their lives, but their defensive numbers are pedestrian at best. Continue reading →
Gianluigi Donnarumma: Milan have not been great when it comes to keeping clean sheets, but they had a decent shot this week against the short-circuiting Fiorentina, which have managed to score just once in their last five fixtures.
Erick Pulgar: Bologna have won five games in a row at home, giving up a goal in just two of them, and more importantly the Chilean metronome has been a force of destruction on set pieces and could help them put the finishing touches on their late-season run to avoid relegation. Continue reading →
Bartlomiej Dragowski (7 points): he came through time and time for Empoli against Fiorentina, helping them keep a rare clean sheet with various great saves on attempts and the final one on a Dusan Vlahovic’s point-blank header was simply a thigh of beauty.
Felipe(13 points): he is the second defender to bag two goals in the same game after Merih Demiral managed few rounds back. He took advantage of Chievo’s abysmal defending on set pieces to perforate them first with a header and then with a tap-in after settling the ball in a rather fortuitous way. Continue reading →
Some hard-fought contests in this round: the most intense turned out to be Sampdoria-Lazio, as the Blucerchiati did not roll over despite the events of the first half.
The locals came into the game looking for three points to fuel a desperate comeback for the Europa League zone after they had dropped three of the last four fixtures, while Lazio were riding the high of reaching the Coppa Italia final and had to atone for the incredible loss to Chievo last week.
Marco Giampaolo selected Alex Ferrari to substitute the injured Joachim Andersen and, as it has often been the case, chose Gaston Ramirez and Gregoire Defrel to fill out the front-line next to Fabio Quagliarella. Continue reading →
Standings implications: Juventus and Inter shared the spoils in the Derby d’Italia, with the Nerazzurri now four points clear of the nearest team, while Napoli most likely put the final nail in Frosinone’s coffin. Torino bested Milan in the most meaningful match-up of the week and pulled even in the standings, while Roma dismantled Cagliari. It took them a while, but Atalanta lift the lid late against Udinese and thus seized sole control of the fourth place. Lazio sunk Sampdoria, which kissed the final European hopes goodbye, and are three points away from the crosstown rivals. The races to play continentally next season stay a big mess. Bologna delivered a big blow to Empoli with a three-one win on Saturday and also Parma, Genoa and SPAL were able to gain a little more separation from the Azzurri. Sassuolo topped Fiorentina. Continue reading →