It was a critical Serie A weekend in all the important positions in the table. Juventus look to have put the title race to bed after Napoli dropped points on Saturday. All of the players for European places got wins and Frosinone picked up their second win in three weeks. But the title race is the place to start and Florence is the place to talk about.
Serie A Weekend: Critical Weekend of Results
Fiorentina 0-0 Napoli
It was certainly a surprise to see Fiorentina come out with a 3-4-3 formation, something they had not used all season. It must’ve surprised Napoli even more as they looked unable to break it down all night. They took plenty of shots that missed the target but were unable to create any clear cut, should-have-scored chances.
Dries Mertens had one of his quietest games this season, generating just 24 touches and two shots straight at the goalie. His strike partner at the start, Lorenzo Insigne did not produce much more, but he was at least linking up with the midfield. Mertens was uncharacteristically isolated away from the midfield, which is a major concern for Napoli.
Part of what has made them so great is the connection between their attackers and midfielders, whether in the past with Maurizio Sarri or currently under Carlo Ancelotti. But against Fiorentina, they were unable to keep that crucial link. And it makes one wonder if Marek Hamsik shouldn’t be allowed to go to China so soon.
But for Napoli, this draw might as well be the end of their title challenge. Juventus picked up three points against Sassuolo, meaning they now hold an 11 point Serie A lead. It’s hard to see Juventus dropping enough games, for Napoli to get back into this race, so the dropped points here will be critical.
The Battle for Europe
AC Milan got another big win on Sunday smashing Cagliari 3-0. With goals from both new signings Krzysztof Piatek and Lucas Paqueta, Milan feels like a different side with them. And they need to be to make sure they keep hold of their crucial fourth place position. Sitting on 39 points, Milan holds a one-point lead on Roma, Atalanta and Lazio.
Milan is going to need those new signings to continue to play well because the other teams are playing well. Roma got back into winnings ways on Friday, going to Chievo Verona and smacking the bottom feeders. This came after Lazio narrowly beat Empoli on Thursday, both went temporarily fourth with their efforts.
But the surprise story continues to be Atalanta. The tiny club from north Italy has been a serial thorn in the sides of the big teams for a few years now under Gian Piero Gasperini. Their attacking trident of Duvan Zapata, Josep Illicic and Papu Gomez have been the best in Italy this season. No that’s not made up Atalanta are the highest scoring side in Serie A, and its critical to their success.
Zapata is still flying, as we’ve been chronicling. Another goal on Sunday took him up to 16 on the season, tied with Fabio Quagliarella and two behind Cristiano Ronaldo. If he keeps scoring like this Atalanta will find themselves in the race for Europe all season.
The Relegation Zone
Let’s take a trip to the bottom of the Serie A table where 19th-place Frosinone picked up a critical victory on Sunday. They went away and somehow kept out Mr. Quagliarella, and beat Sampdoria 1-0. It took some of the best defending of their lives to hold Sampdoria at bay. The Genoan side had 73% possession and 16 shots, seven on target.
The win brings Frosinone right back into the relegation battle. Now on 16 points, yes 16 points from 23 games, they are now just two points behind 17th place. Empoli and Bologna are tied at 18 points and those three sides look set for a dogfight as to who gets to be the one that makes a critical return to Serie A next season.
Embed from Getty Images