Juventus: Miralem Pjanic (thigh) and Gonzalo Higuain (head) were ruled out. while Rodrigo Bentancur, who hurt his ribs, is good to go. Douglas Costa has resumed practicing fully and might return to the squad either here or on Sunday, while Aaron Ramsey is still limited, but he is the squad list.
Standings implications: a weird round results-wise since three of the top four teams shared the spoils against minnows. In chronological order, Juventus could not get past Lecce, Inter equalized against Parma and Napoli did not come up with a game-winner versus SPAL. Atalanta were the only ones to capitalize on the other contenders’ misfortune, demolishing Udinese. Lazio outlasted Fiorentina, while Roma took advantage of Milan’s blunders. Cagliari tied with Torino away, while Bologna and Sassuolo returned to winning ways, sinking Sampdoria and Verona respectively. Genoa bounced back in Thiago Motta’s debut by staging a glorious second-half comeback against Brescia. Continue reading
Atalanta: Luis Muriel returned in Champions League from his tonsillitis and thus they have no injuries to worry about.
Bologna: Roberto Soriano is suspended, while Mitchell Dijks is trying to come back from a ribs contusion, but he has yet to resume practicing fully.
Cagliari: Charalampos Lykogiannis is dealing with some Achilles soreness, while Ragnar Klavan has some thigh muscle fatigue. They are iffy for the weekend. Christian Oliva and Simone Pinna are under the weather. Among these, only Oliva has been able to recover enough to be called up. Continue reading
Atalanta: Luis Muriel is dealing with tonsillitis and his recovery for the weekend is uncertain.
Bologna: Danilo could be back from his thigh strain in this round, while Mitchell Dijks is very likely to miss another one due to a rib injury.
Standings implications: the table is starting to take shape and it has a new leader compared to the past few seasons as, for now, Inter is the only club with nine points after downing Udinese, since Juventus were halted by Fiorentina. Napoli returned to winning ways in convincing fashion against Sampdoria, who instead stay at zero points. Roma allowed Sassuolo to re-open the game but still won by two goals. Lazio dropped an ugly one versus SPAL, but it was not the only surprise win as Lecce shocked Torino on Monday night. It was harder than expected but Milan did best Verona away. Atalanta outlasted Genoa in a thriller, while Bologna mounted a glorious comeback against Brescia. Cagliari surprised Parma on the road. Continue reading
Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading
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
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
After declaring bankruptcy in 2005, SPAL’s future as a club was put into serious doubt. In order to stay alive, they moved the club to the city of Ferrara in 2012, and just five years ago, the Serie A minnows renamed themselves to SPAL 2013. Competing in Italy’s third tier, Lega Pro, SPAL 2013 started from square one and knew they faced an uphill battle at subsistence.
Today, SPAL are sitting comfortably in mid-table, securing their place in Italy’s top division for consecutive seasons. Not even the most optimistic SPAL supporter would have envisioned their meteoric rise in recent years. While their return to Serie A was filled with hardships and uncertainty with their survival going down to the wire, this season was everything but that.
The Emilia-Romagna based outfit, led by Leonardo Semplici, have played some sensational football to date, beating the likes of Roma, Lazio, and Juventus on their way to salvation. However, this season represented much more than just surviving another year. With Semplici at the helm, SPAL pride themselves on playing attractive football, and are one of the few sides within the peninsula that blend experience with youth.
Last summer, fresh from avoiding the drop, SPAL turned to the transfer window, and signed experienced Serie A players. Their mission was clear. They wanted to do more in Serie A than simply make up the numbers, and sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league with their acquisitions. Andrea Petagna and Jasmin Kurtic were brought in from Atalanta, while Sassuolo’s Simone Missiroli was identified to tidy up the midfield.
Armed with their experience, SPAL understood they had more than enough to guarantee their Serie A status for another season. In Petagna, SPAL have a target man capable of scoring with his head and both feet for years to come. Currently, the Atalanta loanee is on 15 goals on the season, and counting. Missiroli, by contrast, joins Kurtic and Pasquale Schiattarella in what is an overall experienced midfield, and remain one of the league’s underrated trios due to their age.
Semplici’s men, however, would not stop there, and also brought in a number of young prospects including goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, Torino’s Kevin Bonifazi, Hellas Verona’s Mohamed Fares, Lazio’s Alessandro Murgia among others. Together, these players offered some much needed depth, and youth at crucial times throughout the season. Factor in club veteran Manuel Lazzari’s industrious nature on the right wing along with these acquisitions, and it’s clear, SPAL possess a truly dynamic and versatile roster capable of hurting any side in Italy on their day. After all, this season they beat Roma, home AND away.
Off the pitch, SPAL have emerged as an example for the rest of the league’s provinciali, as well. When they made the leap to Serie B, the club restructured their stadium to comply with the league’s safety and comfort guidelines.
In the summer of 2018, the Stadio Paolo Mazza went under further construction, and their seating capacity was raised from 13,135 seats to 16,134. In an era where most Italian clubs get bogged down by bureaucracy and paperwork, including some of Serie A’s major players, SPAL have been able to carve out a home for themselves within Ferrara, and don’t look like they’re ready to stop anytime soon. While modest in size, SPAL possess one of the more modern grounds within the league.
If their plans for expansion are anything to go by, expect to see Semplici’s men continue their rise for years to come. After all, despite suffering countless set-backs, SPAL 2013 have shown they’re ready to roll with the punches and adapt. At a time where most Italian football sides are content with maintaining the status quo, SPAL are holding their own, and redefining boundaries within the Italian game in the process. And for that, they should be commended.
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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.