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
Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.
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
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
Lukas Skorupski (7 points): just three clean sheets in this round and, out of the trio, the Polish goalkeeper had the best performance as he denied a point-blank Joao Pedro header with a miraculous save to protect his team’s lead.
Erick Pulgar (9 points): it has not been easy this season to beat Alessio Cragno from the penalty spot, but he did it with great aplomb in Sunday’s lunch match.
Cedric Soares (7 points): he finally started in Serie A and had a very solid showing motoring down the right flank and sending in multiple juicy crosses. He was credited for an assist to Gagliardini, but he really was trying to shoot there. Continue reading
There were a couple of head-to-head matches in secondary positions of the table and one of them, Sampdoria vs Atalanta, turned out to be quite entertaining.
The Blucerchiati approached the match riding a two-game winning streak, as their victories over Cagliari and SPAL had allowed them to re-enter the Europa League race. Atalanta had bounced back last week against Fiorentina from two straight losses that had made them lose their advantage over the other contenders.
Salvatore Sirigu (7 points): he has not conceded in 557 minutes, beating a Torino’s all-time record and did his part on Sunday too with a superb double instinctual save on Filip Djordjevic early in the second half.
Francesco Acerbi (5 points): after blanketing Krzysztof Piatek in Coppa Italia, he had a repeat by smothering Edin Dzeko, who was rendered harmless in the Derby.
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
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.