10 THINGS WE LEARNED from Serie A as Napoli beat Juventus

Lukaku is finally starting to deliver for Inter Milan, Leao is showing why he’s one of the best wingers in the world, but Juventus still have MAJOR issues in attack… 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from Serie A this weekend

  • Romelu Lukaku scored twice against Empoli and is finally finding some form
  • Rafael Leao also scored a brace for AC Milan in their 2-0 win over Lecce
  • Juventus lost to Napoli, and their attack remains an issue that needs addressing 

Napoli moved a step closer to their first Serie A title in 33 years thanks to a late Giacomo Raspadori winner against Juventus in Turin on Sunday night.

There were also wins for both Milan clubs as they continued their push for a top-four finish, but Lazio slumped to a shock home defeat against Torino.

Mail Sport’s Italy correspondent ALVISE CAGNAZZO talks us through 10 things we learned from another intriguing weekend of football in Serie A. 

Sousa’s Salernitana are starting to click

Paulo Sousa wanted his Salernitana side to remain calm and focused for 90 minutes amid the intense atmosphere at the Arechi Stadium and they delivered a brilliant win against Sassuolo.

The victory came after almost two months without one, and is a much-needed sign of growth that offers optimism for the club’s future. 

Paulo Sousa’s calmness is starting to rub off on players as Salernitana move away from drop

Salernitana beat Sassuolo 3-0, vindicating president Danilo Iervolino’s decision to sack the architect of last year’s miraculous escape from relegation, Davide Nicola, to bring in the former Poland manager. 

The decision to block out the supporters’ chants during the match shows how Sousa is desperate for his team to avoid costly lapses in concentration as he looks to shape the team in his image. 

Sousa loves organisation and discipline, knows how to choose the best midfielders to manage the pace of games and his calmness seems to have finally transmitted to the players, who now manage to emotionally control the most difficult moments of each match. 

Salernitana have given themselves breathing space, moving seven points clear of the relegation zone, and Sousa is proving once again that he remains an underrated coach.

Signs of the real Lukaku

Lukaku scored his first Serie A goal from open play since August in Inter Milan’s 3-0 win at Empoli, and went on to bag a brace to move onto nine goals for the season.

‘It’s the first time in my career that I have such a serious injury, but now I have to repay Inter,’ Lukaku told DAZN afterwards. 

Lukaku is finally showing signs of life, but Inter fans will be questioning why he has only woken up now after a difficult season at the San Siro.

Romelu Lukaku found the net twice against Empoli and is starting to silence some doubters

The Belgian forward now has a few games to define his future before returning to Chelsea, but his performance against Empoli showed what he is capable of. 

Lukaku can still be a dangerous player in the penalty area, and Simone Inzaghi and Inter will be hoping he can maintain his form for their mouth-watering Champions League semi-final against rivals AC Milan next month.

Leao finds form at the PERFECT time

Leao is experiencing his best phase of the season and is preparing to push AC Milan towards the Champions League final. 

At the moment, Stefano Pioli’s team are focused on their European journey and are treating their Serie A matches as practice ahead of their meeting with Inter. 

But winning against Lecce on Sunday kept alive their hopes of finishing in the top four and the Portuguese star put in an extraordinary performance. 

Rafael Leao scored both goals in AC Milan’s important win over Lecce over the weekend

He scored two important goals in the 2-0 win as Milan look to build momentum ahead of the final run-in. 

Leao will, obviously, face tougher opponents than Lecce, but he is showing signs of becoming one of the best wingers in the world.

He is a nightmare for full backs, as shown against Napoli last week, and Inter will have to find a way to keep him quiet if they are to progress to the Champions League final.

Juventus lack ideas in attack

Juventus have Dusan Vlahovic, Arkadiusz Milik, Moise Kean, Federico Chiesa, Angel Di Maria and Matias Soulè in the final third of the pitch but are still struggling to score goals.

It is not a technical problem but a tactical issue that Massimiliano Allegri needs to resolve.

Allegri is a stubborn man who has decided to abandon an aggressive philosophy in attack, relying on defensive solidity to pick up as many points as possible in the league. 

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is failing to get his side to click in the final third of the pitch

This approach has produced a great recovery in Serie A, with the team now up to third after the decision to dock them 15 points was reversed, but the players are still not fully expressing themselves on the pitch. 

Vlahovic has only scored once in Juventus’ last 14 games, highlighting the problems the team have in attack. 

Bianconeri have created a rock-solid defence and midfield line, but are still over-reliant on their counter-attacking abilities.

This didn’t work against league leaders Napoli on Sunday as they slipped to a 1-0 home defeat, and they still have work to do to secure a top-four finish. 

Napoli’s Meret deserves an Italy call-up

He will probably never be considered the heir to Gianluigi Buffon, Angelo Peruzzi or Francesco Toldo but Alex Meret is one of the best Italian goalkeepers in Serie A right now. 

His technical improvement stems from the trust that manager Luciano Spalletti put in him by allowing Davide Ospina to leave so that Meret could become Napoli’s undisputed No 1. 

Alex Meret is continuing to improve and deserves to be called into the Italian national team

Napoli picked up a late win at the weekend against Juventus to edge nearer to the Serie A title

Spalletti has decided to rebuild the goalkeeper’s self-esteem by never questioning him, and Meret deserves a call-up to Roberto Mancini’s national team. 

Throughout Sunday’s match at Juventus, Meret looked in control as he marshalled his defence to keep the Bianconeri at bay. 

Over the years he has become a calming presence, and his distribution has also improved, with the 26-year-old now able to initiate attacks for his team.

Lazio’s untimely stumble

When spring arrives, Lazio usually lose points in the standings and even in this splendid season, Maurizio Sarri’s team are starting to falter in Serie A. 

Their 1-0 home defeat against Torino was a setback that they will need to recover from quickly. 

Lazio had more shots, more ball possession and made more passes that Torino, but still somehow managed to lose the game.

The racist chants against Wilfried Singo and Yann Karamoh were yet another unpleasant demonstration of a major issue that Italian football must address.

Maurizio Sarri won’t have been happy with what he saw from his team in their defeat to Torino

Despite a number of statistics falling in Lazio’s favour, Torino had plenty of chances to win by a bigger margin but squandered several big opportunities.

Matias Vecino, Sergej Milinkovic Savic and Luis Alberto disappointed as Torino got the upper hand in the midfield battle. Sarri also failed to make the necessary tactical adjustments during the game. 

Having looked comfortable in second heading into the weekend, Lazio now have teams breathing down their neck in the race to get into next season’s Champions League. 

Stankovic has a bright future in the dugout

Dejan Stankovic was a great midfielder and will soon be a great coach. 

Taking over bottom-of-the-table Sampdoria was always going to test his character,  and it has been a difficult period for Stankovic after inheriting a struggling side. 

Yet Stankovic has always managed to give Sampdoria an identity and has brought back some fans who had began to turn their backs on the team. 

Sampdoria have only collected 17 points so far in this championship, with 20 goals scored and 52 conceded.

Relegation to Serie B is now almost guaranteed but Stankovic has nothing to regret: he has developed an aggressive and physically strong team that have the foundations in place to build on once they drop into Italy’s second division.

Nzola may not be enough to save Spezia

M’Bala Nzola is the ideal back-up striker for any top Serie A club but for now his focus is on keeping Spezia in the division. 

With the arrival of coach Luca Gotti, Nzola’s value has been completely recalculated and Spezia will now demand €15-20m (£13-18m) to allow him to leave this summer. 

In 26 appearances, Nzola has contributed 13 goals and two assists and carried his team at times, but it still may not be enough to prevent Spezia dropping into Serie B.

M’bala Nzola (left) is doing his very best to keep Spezia in Serie A, but it may not be enough

Verona are improving and Spezia look fragile ahead of the final run-in. 

Nzola is a centre-forward of great physical strength and technique whose attitude has been questioned in the past, but he has now realised he can be a top-level centre-forward by improving his discipline. 

According to Sky Sports, agents of the Angolan striker are in contact with Spezia to renew his contract until 2025, but the deal is likely to include a release clause that could be triggered if they are relegated.

Samardzic continues to shine at Udinese

At 21, Udinese’s Lamar Samardzic is not yet producing on a consistent basis, but is still one of the most exciting talents to follow in Serie A. 

His ability is unquestionable and he will likely be sold for a substantial fee in the future by a club that has always got value for their players over the years.

Udinese value ​​the German midfielder at around €30m (£26.5m), and he is starting to garner the attention of the biggest European clubs. 

Lamar Samardzic (right) scored on Sunday and looks to have a very bright future ahead of him

He scored the opening goal in Udinese’s 3-0 win over Cremonese on Sunday and now has five goals in 30 appearances this season.

Samardzic, who dreams of playing in the Champions League, makes his side tick by controlling the pace of a game.

His performance against Cremonese was just the latest example of what a huge talent he is.

Verona are still fighting for survival

Verona have not given up hope of staying in Serie A after a disastrous start to the season.

Their 2-1 victory against Bologna moved them to within a point of 17th-placed Spezia, and they have every chance of surviving thanks to the talent of Simone Verdi.

Their change in fortunes has centred around manager Marco Zaffaroni using a 4-2-3-1 formation that gets the best out of Verdi, Adolfo Gaich and Kevin Lasagna.

Verona now have a clear identity under Zaffaroni which has allowed them to dramatically improve in recent weeks.

They have steadily closed the gap to the teams above them and now have Spezia, Lecce and Empoli in their sights. 

Verona looked doomed but have now given themselves a good chance of staying up

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