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.
Once again lots of goals in the Serie A weekend: here’s the best XI.
David Ospina(7 points): the Colombian goalkeeper drew a surprising start and helped his team with a fantastic save late on a close-range attempt by Mateo Musacchio.
Armando Izzo (9 points): the Torino back-line not only stonewalled Inter, but also two defenders combined for the game-winning goal. Izzo is not much of a goal scorer, he had just four in over 150 appearances, but one header was more than enough to bring home the full spoils on Sunday. Continue reading →
Standings implications: Juventus surged past Lazio late and saw their lead swell because Milan and Napoli shared the spoils. The Rossoneri remain fourth due to some ties behind them. Torino torpedoed Inter at home and re-emerged in the Europa League race. It was a Sunday of comebacks, as Atalanta erased a three-nothing lead against Roma and SPAL proceeded to win the game after being down two-nothing in Parma. Fiorentina outlasted Chievo in a rollercoaster of a game. Sampdoria and Sassuolo easily took care of business in the early Saturday matches, smoking Udinese and Cagliari. Frosinone surprisingly pounded Bologna on the road, re-emerging in the relegation race and putting the Felsinei in real trouble. Continue reading →
Juventus: Mario Mandzukic is trying to come back from high strain, but it might be too early. Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are dealing with minor calf ailments, while Sami Khedira has a sore knee: they are unlikely to be available this week, but the fullback has a shot. Medhi Benatia (groin), Andrea Barzagli (thigh) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) remain out.
Napoli: Marek Hamsik will return from a thigh strain, while Allan is experiencing some back pain and has been ruled out.
Inter: Balde Keita (thigh) will not be able to come back this week, while Sime Vrsaljko is under the weather and also nursing an achy knee. Matteo Politano is fatigued. Continue reading →
Sampdoria-Udinese: the Blucerchiati were pipped at the post in Florence last week, in a game that turned on its head a thousand times. They have won three straight at home. After three positive, or semi-positives, results Udinese took a tumble at home against Parma. They have managed to prevail just once on the road thus far. Fabio Quagliarella has found the target in ten straight appearances and is one shy of tying the record, so he is obviously a must-start, considering that the match-up is not that hard. Gaston Ramirez is suspended, so Riccardo Saponara will draw the start and could be worth a look. Even Jakub Jankto showed some life in the last game, but Karol Linetty might be able to return in the midfield. Continue reading →
Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available. Continue reading →
Juventus-Sampdoria: after a string of close wins over fierce enemies, the Bianconeri draw against Atalanta, in a game where they came back in ten men. It is just their second tie in Serie A. The Blucerchiati are in a marvelous moment, as they have not lost in the last six games and have won in four of their last five. The offensive production remained the same for Juventus in the last four matches, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic were the only one to hit the net. Paulo Dybala is stuck in a playmaking role, while Douglas Costa has always been more of an assist man. They are awaiting for some goals out of the midfield and Emre Can and Sami Khedira have some potential there, while Rodrigo Bentancur will be suspended in this one. On the other hand, Sampdoria’s attack is humming as Fabio Quagliarella has scored for eight matches in a row and Gaston Ramirez, Gianluca Caprari and Riccardo Saponara have all found the target recently and even Karol Linetty and Dennis Praethave done some damage. The only one not playing well is Gregoire Defrel, but this could be a decent match-up for his skillset, should he be given the start. Continue reading →
The next round features one of the games of the season, Juventus-Inter, and few other juicy match-ups.
Juventus-Inter: the Bianconeri got the better of Fiorentina, extending their winning streak to five fixtures, but in that occasion they were not as dominant as the final score showed. Against Roma, Inter dropped points for the second time in a row on the road and, despite scoring twice, they never looked in control. The same thing happened in Bergamo, but they are extremely opportunistic, so they can never be counted out. Cristiano Ronaldo added one to his tally with a penalty in Florence, while Rodrigo Bentancur continues to impress. Mario Mandzukic is generally money in big matches, while Douglas Costa has the potential to be a factor off the bench. Despite being useful in other areas, Paulo Dybala’s offensive stats in Serie A have been subpar. Continue reading →
Standings implications: Juventus continue to roll and toppled Fiorentina, but Napoli outlasted Atalanta away. Roma showed great character against and the big match of the round ended in a 2-2 draw. Milan put together a gritty comeback against Parma: a valuable result that allowed them to leapfrog Lazio, which got halted by Chievo. Sampdoria finally got a win trouncing Bologna, which are officially in trouble. SPAL and Empoli shared the spoils in a very well played game, similarly to Frosinone and Cagliari. Torino downed Genoa with two quick goals at the end of the first half, while Sassuolo-Udinese was scoreless. Continue reading →
Juventus: Federico Bernardeschi and Sami Khedira will not play this week because of an adductor issue and an ankle sprain. Miralem Pjanic should be available after a little muscular ailment with Bosnia. Emre Can is recovering from thyroid surgery. The two German players could return within a couple of weeks, the Italian winger sooner.
Napoli: Simone Verdi worked his way back from a thigh problem, but rolled his ankle in practice and could miss some time. Amin Younes has shaken off the Achilles injury, but he had the same problem of his teammate, even though his one is considered milder. Alex Meret is dealing with a sore shoulder on top of going through a bumpy rehab from a forearm fracture. Dries Mertens got a bruise in practice.Continue reading →