Can this season really be Napoli’s shot at Scudetto glory in Italy
Seven games, seven wins. As things stand, one team sits on top of the Serie A table, and it’s not Juventus.
Rather, it’s Napoli who boast the perfect 100 per cent win record. This Saturday will truly be a feast for Serie A fans as the Partenopei will lock horns with Roma, whilst reigning champs Juventus take on Lazio. Currently, Maurizio Sarri’s men enjoy a two point lead over the chasing pack, albeit that could evaporate should the Bianconeri defeat Lazio in the earlier fixture.
Of course, Napoli really won’t be focused too much on whatever Juventus does, as the Bianconeri are a formidable opponent at the Allianz Stadium. They have yet to concede a goal there and have yet to drop points on home turf. What is making this season’s title race more interesting is many have started to wonder if this could finally be the one that sees someone end Juve’s stranglehold on the Scudetto.
For the past six seasons, it’s been all about La Vecchia Signora. However, the Partenopei were pretty impressive themselves last term, and probably could have pushed Massimiliano Allegri’s side till the end. The fact that they lost their out-and-out striker, Arkadiusz Milik due to injury, who was brought in to replace Gonzalo Higuain and Dries Mertens, a natural midfielder, was able to easily slot in and shoulder much of the goal-scoring responsibilities is a testament to Sarri’s management skills, and they only finished just five points behind Juventus and one behind second-placed Roma.
One area Napoli did struggle was keeping things tight in defense, where they lost fixtures to the likes of Atalanta (both home and away), whilst they were unable to hang on for a draw with Juventus and were also beaten by Roma. In the second half of the season, however, they did draw the Bianconeri (at the Stadio San Paolo) and beat Roma (ad the Stadio Olimpico), leaving many to wonder had they managed the same kind of performances in the first half could things have been different?
Currently, they have definitely made some big improvements in defense. Only Inter, who have conceded three goals, have let in fewer goals than Napoli’s five, whilst their high-flying attack have fired in 25 goals. Unlike Juventus, they’re not really expected to go far in this season’s Champions League, as the Bianconeri have made it to two finals in three seasons and have been frustrated to come up short. Thus, as the campaign heats up, Napoli will definitely have less pressure on them as they will fully be able to further commit themselves to the league campaign and that firmly could play into their hands.
All in all, this indeed could be Napoli’s season to finally get their hands on the title that has eluded them for over two decades. They have already beaten Lazio at the same Stadio Olimpico this season. And whilst Roma are coming into this fixture having won four in a row, including three consecutive clean sheets – the most recent a 2-0 win over AC Milan, it’s no surprise that Napoli are backed at 11/4 to come out on top in a highly entertaining clash against the Giallorossi that should see both teams find the back of the net.
AC Milan 0 – 2 AS Roma: Four Things We Learned
AS Roma travelled to San Siro and completed a good performance on their way to a huge 2-0 win over AC Milan. Roma looked impressive on both ends of the pitch and fully deserved the three points, while Milan once again looked underwhelming despite having one of the best squads in the entire league.
Here are four things we learned from this thrilling match on Sunday.
AS Roma Needed Five Minutes To Dispatch AC Milan
The first half was quite balanced, as both teams looked positive and threatening. But Roma always had a bit of dominance. They generated the best scoring chances and always looked like the more composed team. But they were forced to wait until the second half to translate that dominance into the score.
As it turns out, Roma only needed five minutes to build a lead they would never relinquish. First it was Edin Dzeko who found the back of the net in the 72nd minute following an assist from Lorenzo Pellegrini. And Roma added a second five minutes later, when Alessandro Florenzi took advantage of a rebound to make it 2-0.
Roma’s Solution Was On The Bench
Roma ended winning the game thanks to the two second-half goals previously mentioned. But Pellegrini’s impact on the game was bigger than just the assist on Edin Dzeko’s strike. The talented midfielder dictated the tempo of the side, and was one of the best players on the pitch. He filled the stat sheet as well, as he ended the game with two key passes, one cross, two shots and three clearances. To make things even better, he also completed 91% of his passes.
The former Sassuolo is only 21 years old, but shows maturity and poise beyond his years. Right now it will be tough for him to become a regular starter for Roma, but he is certainly on the right track. And as he evidenced today, he has enough talent to replace Kevin Strootman who, in his own right, is one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the entire Serie A.
Fans Should Not Criticise Vincenzo Montella…Yet
It is quite easy to understand the frustration from Milan fans. The team was extremely active during the transfer market, and managed to complete a massive overhaul to the squad. The arrivals of players such as Nikola Kalinic, Leonardo Bonucci, Ricardo Rodriguez and Hakan Calhanoglu instantly transformed them into a potential title contender. But the results haven’t been there yet. And after seven games, Milan sit in a disappointing seventh position. They have four wins and three defeats, with 10 goals scored and 10 conceded.
This is clearly not what the management had in mind when they acquired so many talented players. But Vincenzo Montella needs a bit more time. It is never easy to assemble a whole new team from one year to another, and especially when almost the entire starting XI is composed with new players. It would be different if there were 15 or 20 matches played already. But Milan have not even reached 10 league games this season. They are on the right track, but they need to keep working to reach the levels many experts predicted before the start of the season.
There’s A Sizable Gap Between Both Teams
Ultimately, Milan have performed below the pre-season expectations, but that was always a possibility considering all the new players that joined the team during the summer. And while both squads feature a similar amount in terms of talent, there is still a sizable gap between both clubs since Roma have continuity and Milan remain a work in progress.
The capitol-based side have been playing with the same system and a steady core of players during the past few years, while Milan signed more than 10 players during the summer and are also adjusting their tactic to a 3-5-2. Those things matter, and today was he best proof.
AC Milan: Donnarumma (5); Musacchio (5), Bonucci (6), Romagnoli (5); Borini (6) (Bonaventura (-), 84′), Kessie (5), Biglia (6), Calhanoglu (4), Rodriguez (5); Kalinic (6) (Cutrone (-), 79′), Andre Silva (7)
AS Roma: Allison (7); Bruno Peres (6), Manolas (7) (Juan Jesus (-), 86′), Fazio (7), Kolarov (5); Nainggolan (7), De Rossi (6), Strootman (6) (Pellegrini (8), 30′); Florenzi (7), Dzeko (7), El Shaarawy (5) (Gerson (-), 78′)
Goals: 1-0, Dzeko (72′); 2-0, Florenzi (77′)
Referee: Luca Banti
Yellow Cards: Calhanoglu, Biglia (MIL), Dzeko (ROM)
Red Cards: Calhanoglu (MIL)