Milan-Udinese: the Rossoneri slowed down just as things were starting to get really interesting, as they were defeated by Inter and Sampdoria after they had managed to surpass the Nerazzurri riding a five-game winning streak. They also have to look behind at the onrushing Atalanta and Lazio. Udinese came out on top in Igor Tudor’s second debut, besting Genoa after two losses to Juventus and Napoli, although their home numbers were solid also before the firing of Davide Nicola. Milan have had troubles feeding Krzysztof Piatek in the last two matches and they do not really have a second reliable scoring option because Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu are more creators and have not had much feeling with the goal recently. Samu Castillejo did not deliver in Genoa despite the opportunity to start. Lucas Paquetà and Franck Kessie were benched after international duties, but they should be back in the XI here and could provide a decent boost. The Brazilian starlet might play closer to the guy and Patrick Cutrone could get to start over Suso in a different scheme. Continue reading
Wojciech Szczesny: the Juventus back-line has not been super robust in the last few games, so they will be looking to course correct against Empoli, which have had troubles producing on the road.
Jens Larsen: Udinese could benefit from the new coach’s bump against Genoa, which is not a particularly productive side anyway, while the Zebrette posted okay numbers at home. The fullback has often been able to pick up bonus points at the Friuli stadium. Continue reading
Juventus-Empoli: the Bianconeri are coming off their first Serie A loss this season, against Genoa, while they dropped points just twice at home thus far. The Azzurri defeated Frosinone in Aurelio Andreazzoli’s return match, nabbing the second win in the last 13 rounds. They have lost in five of the last six away games. The Old Lady will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who got hurt while playing with Portugal, and Douglas Costa, who remains sidelined. Therefore, Federico Bernardeschi, Moise Kean, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic will lead the charge and try to alleviate the absence of the Portuguese star. They could be helped by the fact that the Tuscans have one of the leakiest defenses in the League. Continue reading
With their chances of securing European qualification via the league looking increasingly unlikely, Fiorentina travel to Cagliari on Friday night desperately needing a win. The Viola currently sit tenth in Serie A, four places and seven points behind the Europa League berths, but a victory in Sardinia might put pressure on those above them.
Standings implications: Juventus further extended their lead after pummeling Udinese as Napoli equalized in Sassuolo. Both Milan and Inter were successful against minnows in this round, the Rossoneri beat Chievo, the Beneamata did the same with SPAL, and therefore head into next week’s Derby separated by just one point, with the Devil on top. Roma sweated it out by bested Empoli and remain in pursuit. Atalanta recorded a big win in the Europa League race by besting Sampdoria on the road, but Torino staged a comeback in Frosinone and the two remain hand-in-hand, while Lazio lost some ground as they were held to a one-one tie in Florence. Waiting to see what Empoli will do, only Bologna took home the W in the rear: they stay in the 18th spot, but have closed a little the gap with Empoli, SPAL and Udinese.
Two teams from the Coppa Italia semifinals go head-to-head in what could be an early preview of May’s final, Lazio travelling north to Florence for Sunday night’s encounter with Fiorentina. The visitors arrive in the Renaissance City boosted by their incredible trouncing of neighbours AS Roma in last weekend’s Derby della Capitale, hoping the confidence they take from that will carry over here.
Italian football are no strangers to their misunderstood and controversial superstars. Before Mario Balotelli emerged on the scene, there was Antonio Cassano. And before them came Roma’s iconic bad-boy Francesco Totti. While calcio’s latest exploit, Federico Chiesa, has done nowhere near enough to steal the headlines alongside these players, the Fiorentina winger is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons at the moment.
Since emerging through the ranks at Fiorentina, Chiesa has established himself as one of Italy’s elite talents and will undoubtedly become a cornerstone of Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri setup moving forward. Comfortable with playing on either wing, the 21-year-old has arguably developed into la Viola’s most important player in the final third, and has even added end product to his game this season.
Deploying him alongside Giovanni Simeone, and Luis Muriel, Fiorentina boss Stefano Pioli has been able to get the most out of his talented winger. Currently, Chiesa has scored five goals and registered three assists in league play, all-while propelling Fiorentina into a race for the Europa League and deep into the Coppa Italia – a competition in which, alone, he’s got six goals.
Outside of his ability to find the back of the net, Chiesa has also been effective at feeding his teammates. At the moment, the Italian international is averaging 1.8 key passes per game and has been a constant menace on the counter attack with his impressive turn of pace.
Despite his recent exploits, the press surrounding Chiesa has never been worse. While the 21-year-old is capable of the extravagant on the ball, he’s also developed a reputation for diving, and manipulating the referees. If it were a one-off occurrence, it wouldn’t be an issue. However, just this season alone Chiesa’s antics have infuriated the masses, and he’s been labelled as enemy number one from rival fan-bases.
Most recently, Chiesa undeservedly earned Fiorentina another penalty shot, this time coming in their Coppa Italia clash against Atalanta. It would inevitably prove to be the difference as La Viola earned a 3-3 draw going into the second leg. Earlier this season, the Fiorentina winger Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini had some select words for Chiesa after the game.
“Chiesa? The penalty was a farce. It’s an episode that hurts the player’s reputation more than anything,” said Gasperini to Quotidiano.net.
With a number of suitors, both abroad and within Italy, heavily after Chiesa including Roma and Tottenham Hotspur among others, the young winger will have to curb this bad habit. Otherwise, it may prevent him from reaching the very top.
There’s no denying Chiesa’s talent and versatility in the final third, however, clubs will think twice before making him their marquee signing if his diving antics persist. As Chiesa is about to enter a crucial stage in his career – a point where many Italian talents in the past have tailed off – it’s time for Chiesa to put the theatrics behind him once and for all and put his footballing development first. If not, calcio fans may be witnessing Domenico Berardi 2.0; a scary prospect indeed.
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Standings implications: Juventus most likely inflicted the final blow to the title race with a 1-2 win over Napoli in a crazy game. Milan leapfrogged Inter in the third spot as they eked out a win against Sassuolo, while the Nerazzurri were blitzed by Cagliari back on Friday. Roma stayed behind as they got battered by Lazio, which re-entered the fray for the fourth spot, as they have six fewer points than the Beneamata, but have to recover one game. Atalanta and Torino remain in hot pursuit of an Europa League berth with their convincing victories over Fiorentina and Chievo. Massive points for the Sardinians and for Udinese in the relegation zone: the Friulani moved seven points clear of Bologna after besting them on Sunday afternoon. Frosinone and Empoli treaded waters down there with their gritty ties against Genoa and Parma. Continue reading
Salvatore Sirigu: Torino have kept five clean sheets in a row, four straight at home, against opponents that are much more equipped than Chievo and the Flying Donkeys have scored in just one of the last four road games.
Danilo D’Ambrosio: Cagliari’s offensive output has been rather pedestrian in the last two months, so picking an Inter defender could be a smart choice even though they are on the road. The right back is also occasionally able to put his name in the scoresheet.
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