The last week prior to the official start of the transfer market was understandably quiet: Sampdoria pulled off the most interesting move by adding another talented youngster, Gonzalo Maroni from Boca Juniors, who can feature in few positions up front and has the potential to be electric. Genoa made a sizeable investment to have Andrea Pinamonti from Inter, who had a very promising rookie season in Frosinone and is set to be their featured guy up front moving forward. Fiorentina are giving the keys to their goal to Barlomiej Dragowki, who blossomed in Empoli last season, and thus sent Alban Lafont to Nantes on a two-year loan. Sassuolo permanently signed left back Rogerio from Juventus after the 18-month loan, Brescia did the same with Ales Mateju, who belonged to Brighton.
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
Ionut Radu (7 points): the best goalkeepers of the round all ended up conceding at least a goal, so the nod goes to the Genoa one for his ordinary but diligent work in the Fiorentina game, where the Griffon came away with the point they needed.
Franck Kessie (9 points): he was a beast in the SPAL match, as he set up Hakan Calhanoglu’s goal with a pinpoint square ball, found the target with a scorcher and ultimately buried a penalty. He concluded an up-and-down season with his finest performance. Continue reading
Standings implications: it was a rollercoaster because of the chronological order of the events, but the Champions League race finished in the same way it was entering the round, as Atalanta and Inter were successful and staved off Milan. The Nerazzurri sent Empoli to Serie B as Genoa’s grand plan to wait for the Beneamata to win worked out, as neither them or Fiorentina were interested in attacking in their match. Roma bid farewell to Daniele De Rossi with a W over Parma.
Among the meaningless games, Juventus got beat by Sampdoria, Napoli by Bologna, while Udinese bested Cagliari on the road and Frosinone and Chievo shared the spoils in a nil-nil tie. Continue reading
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
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
The round was rather meager in terms of scoring, but prolific for defenders.
Andrea Consigli (7 points): Sassuolo pulled the strings for most of the clash with Parma, but it was not for his save on Fabio Ceravolo’s penalty in the first half they could have found themselves in a very eerie situation.
Frank Kessié (9 points): the Milan powerhouse decided the seminal bout with Lazio with a penalty, which perhaps he should not have even taken, and went mano-a-mano with the talented opponents all night long. Continue reading
Sampdoria defeated the cross-town rivals in dominating fashion, deservedly earning the weekly shout-out. They approached the Derby seeking to atone after being upended by Torino and Roma in the previous two round and losing momentum in the Europa League race.
Marco Giampaolo marshaled his men with his usual diamond formation, picking Jacopo Sala over Bartosz Bereszynski at right back and preferring Gaston Ramirez to Riccardo Saponara in the hole. The returning Albin Ekdal anchored the midfield. Continue reading
Salvatore Sirigu: even if the Torino’s defense has slipped a little in the past few games, he has pulled off some amazing performances and perhaps, differently from Frosinone, they will be able to take advantage of Parma’s absences up front.
Mario Rui: he showed well even in a losing effort in Empoli. Genoa have had a lot of troubles coming up with goals lately, so the Napoli defenders are certainly intriguing in this round, especially Ghoulam, Rui and Kevin Malcuit who are the most involved offensively.
Fabrizio Cacciatore: SPAL are not great on the road, while Cagliari were very solid at home up until the match with Juventus. He is coming off two assists in a row and Darijo Srna is suspended. Luca Pellegrini is faring well too and he will not have to deal with Manuel Lazzari. Continue reading