Spalletti not afraid to take risks
Napoli traveled to Bergamo to face an Atalanta side that had only lost once this season, with boss Luciano Spalletti all too aware of the threat they posed.
“Atalanta are like Liverpool and Manchester City in standing out in the football world because they present very clear ideas and approaches, so we all watch them,” the coach admitted after a hard-fought 2-1 win.
“This gives the dimension of how important taking three points away from here really was.”
Napoli won without the injured Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and had to battle back from 1-0 down after Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman had converted his penalty.
“To play attacking football, you have to take risks,” Spalletti continued. “But that is the life of a team that wants to play football.”
Still five points clear at the top of Serie A, Napoli’s strategy is clearly paying off.
A new hope for Juventus?
There’s no doubt that it’s been a difficult season for Juventus.
After crashing out of the Champions League group stage with just three points from six matches, boss Max Allegri had also overseen an embarrassing defeat to Monza and a draw with Spezia as Juve won just three of their opening nine games.
Yet a win over Torino in mid-October has sparked a mini-run of four consecutive wins that culminated in a strong second-half performance that won them the Derby d’Italia against Inter on Sunday.
Added to a return from injury for Federico Chiesa and Paul Pogba, Ángel Di María and Dušan Vlahović still to come back, and things are suddenly looking a bit more positive for the Old Lady.
On Monday, they drew French side Nantes in the Europa League knockout stages to be played in February, and Vice-President Pavel Nedved admitted that the timing couldn’t have been better.
“We have performed well in the last few league games, not conceding any goals and showing great unity,” Nedved told the club’s website. “The stop for the World Cup will allow us to recover several injured players, who'll be ready at the beginning of January.”
Roma firing blanks as Lazio take derby win
“A gift from Rome,” read the headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport after Lazio pulled off a narrow victory against their cross-city rivals on Sunday, thanks in part to a horrendous mistake from Roma defender Roger Ibañez.
Yet that statement doesn’t tell the whole story as Maurizio Sarri did take all three points from adversary José Mourinho without his key striker Ciro Immobile and his number one playmaker Sergej Milinković-Savić.
“We lacked sharpness as well as the quality that can make the difference in attack,” Mourinho told reporters after the final whistle.
Of course, he could be referring to the injury that’s keeping Argentina star, Paulo Dybala, out of the side, but Roma’s problems in attack run deeper than just one injury.
After a superb campaign last season, Tammy Abraham has scored only twice in almost 1,000 minutes of football this season and looks a shadow of his former confident self. It’s not much better for Italy star Nicolò Zaniolo either, who has just one goal in nine league games, and Roma supporters have just learned that Lorenzo Pellegrini will be out until after the World Cup.
Dybala is Roma’s top scorer with five, leaving defender Chris Smalling the next-best on the list with three.
Mourinho needs to find a solution. And fast.
Maldini v Maldini
The Maldini family has played more than 1,000 games for Milan over three generations. Cesare Maldini won the European Cup with the Rossoneri in 1963, Paolo Maldini holds the club’s appearance record, lifting a total of 26 trophies during a career-long spell at the club, and now Daniel Maldini is the latest to pull on the red and black jersey.
After impressing with a goal for Milan during their game with Spezia last season, this summer 21-year-old Daniel made a loan move to the Ligurian club to further his playing time.
That meant this Sunday saw a matchup between two members of Milan’s elite family when Paolo – now in a sporting director role – faced off against his son at San Siro.
With the score poised at 1-0 in Milan’s favor, the youngster made the headlines write themselves as he popped up with a sublime curled finish to give Spezia the equalizer.
Whilst that might be one for the Maldini family album, the goal eventually turned out to be irrelevant to the result itself when veteran Olivier Giroud popped up with a 90th-minute winner to send the San Siro faithful wild.
A huge week ahead
There are two full rounds of Serie A football to be played before the league takes a break for the World Cup.
What that essentially means is that sides will be pushing desperately hard to ensure they finish in the best possible position in the table before play resumes on January 4th.
Juventus face a tough test of their newly discovered form with a fascinating fixture at home on Sunday, but before that, they’ll have to travel to Hellas Verona on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Inter will be hoping to bounce back from the Derby d’Italia woes with a tough fixture against Bologna at San Siro, after learning that they will face Porto in the Champions League knockout stage.
Milan has a tie with Antonio Conte’s Tottenham in the back of their minds before they face Cremonese away and Fiorentina at home in the next week.
A lot could change in the next few days before the league table is frozen in time for over a month.
Chloe Beresford is an experienced Serie A expert, with previous bylines at Forbes, The Guardian, AS Roma and many more. She has appeared on the radio at Sirius XFM and on the BBC Euro Leagues podcast. Watching live games in Italy and experiencing all the country has to offer are her biggest passions.