Juventus: Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are suspended, while Joao Cancelo and Mario Mandzukic both fractured their nose in the same week and are unavailable for Sunday. Alex Sandro is dealing with a rib contusion. Douglas Costa (calf), Mattia Perin (shoulder) and Sami Khedira (knee) remain sidelined as expected. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested, while Wojciech Szczesny has suffered a knee injury.
Napoli: Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Amadou Diawara looked close to returning from a foot fracture for a pair of weeks, but he was again unable to make the squad list, like Adam Ounas that is banged up and David Ospina, who is still in Colombia. Mario Rui is out with an undisclosed injury. Continue reading →
Juventus-Milan: the Bianconeri are coming off a convincing outing in Cagliari, where they notched their second shutout win in a row and in general their seventh victory in the last eight fixtures. On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed to take home the full loot for three matches in a row as they lost to Inter and Sampdoria and then tied with Udinese. The Old Lady is likely to have back both Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for this game, while Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to sit one more out. Some players could be spared in the Ajax game, in any case Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are in terrific form and have lead them scoring-wise. Continue reading →
Cagliari-Inter: the Sardinians are coming off a 0-1 loss to Sampdoria, where they were offensively challenged, and have prevailed just once in the past seven games, where they have been beaten five times. Inter had a crazy one with Fiorentina last week, where they were pipped at the post due to a questionable penalty. They had defeated Parma and the Blucerchiati in the two previous fixtures and need point to stave off Milan and Roma’s comeback. The Rossoblù have found the net in just one of their last five games and only with one player, Leonardo Pavoletti. Continue reading →
Every season there’s one team in Serie A that pushes above their weight and vies for European football among the league’s elite. With Lazio, Milan and Roma all fighting for top four this year, they all seem to have forgotten about Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta and Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria. Both sides have been in excellent form playing impressive football and have now entered the Champions League race without making too much of a fuss. Right now, the five teams are separated by a mere three points going into a crucial stage of the season.
Led by the eternal Fabio Quagliarella, who has now scored in 11 consecutive games equalling Gabriel Batistuta’s record in the process, Sampdoria find themselves just two points back behind fourth place Milan. Giampaolo has been able to get the most out of his men in his preferred ‘Christmas Tree’ formation (4-3-1-2) and has since attracted interest from the peninsula’s elite for his good work. Insisting on possession football and building patiently, the blucerchiati have dominated the opposition at times, and have proven to be a match for any team in the league.
While Quagliarella is the one bagging the goals, the impressive work done by midfield dynamos Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty should not go unnoticed. Juventus loanee Emil Audero has also manned the sticks wonderfully in his debut season in Serie A, especially with the veteran presence of Lorenzo Tonelli in front of him.
Atalanta, on the other hand, have played some explosive football this season and lead the league in scoring with 47 goals. In fact, gli Orobici have found the back of the net 16 times in their last four league games, three of which coming most recently in their comeback against Roma on the weekend. With Duvan Zapata flanked by Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic, Gasperini’s side posses arguably one of the world’s most underrated front-lines. Zapata is currently on 15 goals on the season and has now scored in Atalanta’s last nine games in all competitions.
Serie A returned in full force with a gorgeous weekend of football. Here are the top performers.
Samir Handanovic (7 points): just five clean sheets in this round, by Inter, Sassuolo, Milan, Juventus and Atalanta. The veteran goalie had the best showing, denying two close range attempts by Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jeremie Boga to preserve the tie. Gianluca Donnarumma was not far behind.
Gianluca Mancini (9 points): he has already scored five goals thus far, which is more than most midfielders. He added a new wrinkle on Sunday, as he did not do damage on a set piece, but simply followed an offensive action by his side, then his teammates fed him with a solid cross. Continue reading →
An extra-long Serie A round is main evented by the Derby della Mole on Saturday night.
Inter-Udinese: the Nerazzurri will be looking to bounce back after a heartbreaking elimination from Champions League, where they fumbled away a great opportunity, and the tough loss against Juventus, where they squandered their chances. The Zebrette were handed their first loss under Davide Nicola by Atalanta last week. Inter continue to be carried by Mauro Icardi and Matteo Politano, with Balde Keita capable of some impressive showings, but still lacking that consistent playing time necessary to be a fantasy stud, even though the real Ivan Perisic has not showed up in a while. Continue reading →
There was not a lot of juice in this week’s round, where the two most anticipated matches Lazio-Milan and Genoa-Sampdoria were hard-fought, but low scoring. The most entertaining fixture turned out to be a unforeseen one, Empoli-Atalanta.
The Azzurri came into the game looking to build on the win over Udinese in Giuseppe Iachini’s debut, while Atalanta were coming off four straight victories, including the brilliant one over Inter, where they had their best performance of the season.
Iachini switched from the 4-3-1-2 they have been using so far to a 3-5-2 he is more accustomed to, basically replacing Miha Zajc with a defender, Frederic Veseli, and picked Manuel Pasqual over Luca Antonelli on the left wing.
Standings implication: Juventus had an easy time against SPAL and Inter got back on track by spanking Frosinone,so they both gained ground on Napoli, which were astonishingly held to a tie at home against the lowly Chievo. Lazio equalized at the buzzer in the meeting with Milan. Roma against sputtered, this time in Udine. Genoa and Sampdoria shared the spoils in the Derby della Lanterna. Parma got a quality win over Sassuolo. Fiorentina did not found the deciding goal in Bologna and had to settle for a nil-nil draw. Empoli mounted a furious comeback to best Atalanta. Continue reading →
There were a pair of dominant displays in the weekend, in particular by Roma and Atalanta, but since the score was the same, the Goddess gets the shout-out as they did it against a way more competitive team. They always seem to put up a good fight when facing Inter, but their performance on Sunday went beyond the rosiest expectation.
There were certainly some surprising results in the last round before another international break.
Standings implications: Juventus bested Milan in the last Sunday game, while Napoli prevailed in the soggy battle in Genoa and have re-assumed sole control of the second place since Inter came crashing down hard in Bergamo. Roma finally put together a brilliant performance against the wheezing Sampdoria. Atalanta leapfrogged few teams in the Europa League race since Fiorentina conceded late and was held to yet another 1-1 tie in Frosinone and Parma snatched a quality road win versus Torino. Continue reading →