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.
Juventus: Paulo Dybala (quad), Douglas Costa (calf), Mario Mandzukic (knee) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) remain on the shelf and have been joined by Daniele Rugani and Alex Sandro due to new thigh injuries. Martin Caceres has recovered. Emre Can was removed late from the squad list due to a muscular ailment.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and Allan have both recuperated. Nikola Maksimovic (toe) and Amadou Diawara (foot) stay sidelined.
Inter: Matias Vecino has been ruled out due to a thigh contracture. 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
Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo had a little scare midweek due to an ankle bruise, but he should be able to feature against Napoli. Douglas Costa (quad) is still out of commission, while Sami Khedira is trying to return earlier than expected from his heart problem.
Napoli: Mario Rui will be back in the squad list after missing time with a thigh sprain and Amin Younes could be called up as well after nursing his surgically repaired Achilles tendon away from the team for a while. Arkadiusz Milik was a little fatigued this week, but he should be fine. 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.
Most of the big names delivered in the last Serie A round, even though not many strikers managed to make it to the XI because of several good performances in the other roles.
David Ospina (7 points): six teams kept a clean sheet in the last weekend and, among the goalkeepers involved, Ospina did it against the most prolific opponent and had few eye-catching and unconventional saves.
Lorenzo Tonelli (9 points): he was the only defender to score this weekend and his header on a corner kick sunk Atalanta. He had a five-goal season once at Empoli, we might see that again now that he is back being a starter. Continue reading
Standings implications: Juventus continue to dominate and notched their eighth straight victory in Udine, while Napoli topped Sassuolo at home. Roma and Inter extended their winning streaks in hard-fought matches against Empoli and SPAL. Lazio prevailed in the second-tier head-to-head game against Fiorentina. Sampdoria came away with a previous win from Bergamo, same for Parma, which staged a marvellous comeback against Genoa on the road. Torino and Cagliari nabbed two home Ws versus Frosinone and Bologna.
Confirmations: all the Serie A’s best striker did their thing this weekend. Krzysztof Piatek broke the deadlock with a header in the lunch match. Cristiano Ronaldo rifled one home against Udinese, Ciro Immobile found a clinical goal versus Fiorentina. Continue reading
Inter had a dominating performance against Bologna, but obviously Sampdoria get the nod because they outfaced a much better opponent like Napoli. The Blucerchiati had a shaky debut against Udinese, but bounced back beautifully at home against one of the title contenders.
Marco Giampaolo made a couple of changes to his previous starting XI, picking ex-Napoli Lorenzo Tonelli over newcomer Omar Colley, Riccardo Saponara over Gaston Ramirez as trequartista and Albin Ekdal as deep-plying playmaker, with Edgar Barreto moving to box-to-box replacing Jakub Jankto. Continue reading
Few teams had impressive displays in the weekend: Roma, Atalanta, Sampdoria and Crotone all pounded their respective opponents and also had very juicy fantasy hauls, with multiple players either finding the target or assisting. However, the most dominant performance of the round belongs to Fiorentina, which also managed to keep a clean sheet, differently from the other teams.
In the big game against Napoli, Stefano Pioli confirmed the scheme he has been heavily relying to recently: a 4-3-1-2 with Riccardo Saponara in the hole, behind Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone. Continue reading
Once again the conditions of some of Serie A’s top players need to be monitored entering the next round.
Juventus: Andrea Barzagli suffered an abdominal injury against Real Madrid and he could miss one or two weeks. Federico Bernardeschi is again not in the squad list, even though he is close.
Napoli: Raul Albiol and Jorginho are suspended and Faouzi Ghoulam is out with a fibula fracture. Lorenzo Tonelli is a little banged up, while Vlad Chiriches was called up last week after a six-week absence due to a hamstring injury.