Atalanta-Sassuolo: the Goddess survived Juventus’ second half push last week and returned from Turin with a precious point that allowed them to catch Inter and maintain a narrow lead over Milan. They have not lost since February 23rd and triumphed in eight of the following 12 rounds. Sassuolo are right in the middle of the pack but played spoiler last week by drawing with Roma. They have been defeated just once in the last eight matches, tying in five occasions. Josip Ilicic scored at the Stadium after being shut out for few weeks and also their rock Duvan Zapata and Alejandro Gomez will be popular picks since the Neroverdi are not the stingiest bunch. Neither are the Bergamaschi to be honest: the locals have spread the wealth in terms of scoring, but in general Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga and Stefano Sensi have been their best contributors in the final months. Hans Hateboer’s suspension makes it clear that Timothy Castagne and Robin Gosens will man the flanks: the former is more interesting since he is listed as a defender and in the midst of a prolific run. Continue reading
Empoli vs Torino was one of the few tilts that had something on the line in both sides and, despite the lopsided result, it hung in the balance up until the 70th minute. In the end, the desire to avoid relegation proved to be more forceful than chasing the European dream.
The Azzurri entered the game having picked up six mammoth points in the last two games, putting pressure especially on Genoa among the teams in front of them. The Granata had not lost in eight rounds, winning three of the last four matches and staying close to Roma and Milan in the standings. 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.
Juventus: Leonardo Bonucci has recovered from his ankle sprain, Daniele Rugani from hamstring soreness and even Mario Mandzukic was able to practice fully late in the week after dealing with a patellar tendon problem for a while. Moise Kean has shaken off the flu. Giorgio Chiellini has picked up yet another calf ailment, but he is available. Miralem Pjanic is fine after twisting his ankle last week.
Napoli: Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have good chances to return after skipping one with muscle fatigue. Nikola Maksimovic and Amadou Diawara are close to healing from their foot infractions. David Ospina is still in Colombia for personal reasons, while Adam Ounas remains questionable after missing one. Continue reading
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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Standings implications: Roma broke through late in the bout with Juventus, grabbing three points that allowed them to keep up with Milan and Atalanta, which upended Fiorentina and Genoa on Saturday. Inter dispatched Chievo and remained in third, while the Bergamaschi maintained their three-point lead over the rivals. Torino stayed close to the pack with a late comeback versus Sassuolo and Lazio returned to winning ways in Cagliari. In the suburbs of the standings, Empoli got the second W in a row, their first of the season on the road, by topping Sampdoria. Udinese did not fumble the Frosinone fixture, therefore the closest team is now Genoa that has just one more point than the Azzurri. Napoli beat SPAL. Bologna stayed in their relatively cozy spot with a win over Parma. Continue reading
Juventus: Paulo Dybala (calf), Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh), Emre Can (thigh) and Alex Sandro have resumed practicing fully and therefore should be available on Sunday, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Daniele Rugani (thigh) will not come back this week. Federico Bernardeschi is suspended. Moise Kean is out with the flu, Leonardo Bonucci with a bruised ankle.
Napoli: David Ospina is on personal leave to tend to a personal matter in Colombia. Nikola Maksimovic (toe) is slated to remain on the shelf, while Amadou Diawara (foot) got in a full practice after a long time, so he might be called up. Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Adam Ounas have been surprisingly ruled out due to small ailments.
David Ospina: he is reportedly drawing the starts in order to trigger the option to buy him from Arsenal, either way, he or Alex Meret are in a good spot this week since Cagliari would have by far the worst clip in terms road goal if they had not scored three to Chievo and they might be without their second banana Joao Pedro on Sunday.
Federico Fazio: Roma have turned it around defensively, conceding just once in the last three matches and this week they will tangle with a Genoa team that has scored in just three of their last ten fixtures. The Argentinian centre-back and Aleksandar Kolarov are also the most likely to contribute on the other end considering their remarkable season tallies. Continue reading
At this point of the season, the heftiest points are often on the line in the bouts between relegation strugglers, although it rarely happens that one terminates with a 2-4 result like Empoli-SPAL.
The Azzurri were coming off a good point on the road in Bergamo, but they need wins to get out of the third-to-last spot, while the Estensi beat Juventus’ second/third stringers last week and had prevailed in four of their last five fixtures.
Aurelio Andreazzoli, who has to navigate through several absences, chose Cristiano Dell’Orco as left wing-back, Dimitrios Nikolao to shore up the Matias Silvestre-less back-line and preferred to advance Rade Krunic rather than using Dimitri Oberlin up front. Continue reading