It was during this weekend where it seems defeat has finally set in at Napoli. They began their game against Sassuolo 17 points off of Juventus in the title race. Juventus had already won their game, and Napoli needed to match. But they should up at Sassuolo and put in a lifeless, unimaginative performance, saved by a late equalizer.
Serie A Weekend: Napoli Giving Up?
Sassuolo 1-1 Napoli
After losing at home to Juventus last week, Napoli was thoroughly outplayed on their trip to Sassuolo this week. Napoli really seems to have taken a step back since letting Marek Hamsik leave for China. The Slovakian club-captain was not playing much but was no doubt still a vital member of his team.
Against Sassuolo they just couldn’t seem to break down the defence. Sassuolo sat deep and played differently than they usually set up. But Napoli did a poor job of breaking them down, the midfield duo of Allan and Amadou Diawara didn’t have enough creativity. And even when they brought on creative players it didn’t seem to help.
Arkadiusz Milik came on and did nothing, Amin Younes came on and did nothing. In the end, after 85 minutes, Lorenzo Insigne picked up a loose ball in the box and curled a shot into the net. It was the equalizer Napoli needed, but there wasn’t enough time to get the three points.
Napoli has won just two of their last seven games in Serie A, the first of those two wins was Hamsik’s last game. Those dropped points are the reason Juventus are running away with the title. They must be careful that this drop in form in Serie A does not bleed into their Europa League campaign. They are up 3-0 against RB Salzburg with the second leg coming on Thursday.
AC Milan Continue to Rise
Napoli’s poor form these last few weeks has been great news for AC Milan. Milan’s stellar form since the winter break continued on Saturday with a 2-1 win on the road against Chievo Verona. The goal scored by Chievo was only the fourth goal Milan has allowed in all competitions since the winter break. That strong defence has shrunk the gap between them and Napoli down to just six points.
Milan were 13 points behind Napoli at the Serie A winter break, so closing the gap down to six is quite an achievement. They haven’t had a defeat in Serie A since before Christmas, which is a great way to lead into the Derbi Della Madonnina next Sunday. Milan should be able to smell blood in the water with that defence and Inter’s recent struggles.
Juventus are Ready for Atletico
Juventus got a big win in their Friday night Champions League warmup match against Udinese 4-1. There are two major points to come out of this game. After the defeat against Atletico, Max Allegri knew he needed to do something different against them. That feeling was reinforced after an underwhelming performance against Bologna two weeks ago.
Allegri came out for this game in a much-changed 3-4-2-1 formation. Its a formation Juventus has used quite a lot in the past, but not very much since bringing in Ronaldo. However, this could be the system that unlocks his full potential at Juventus. Cristiano Ronaldo had an incredible volume of service at Real Madrid because of high their full-backs played.
Since Allegri is less likely to give his full-backs as much license as Zinedine Zidane did, playing wing-backs could do it for him. It’s also worth noting that Paulo Dybala plays much better when playing centrally. This season alone he has seven goals in 13 games centrally, and zero goals in ten games on the right. Putting both him and Ronaldo in better positions to score is something so obvious you wonder why they hadn’t tried it already.
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