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Guest Article – Serie A Review Week 27

Another guest article now and Filippo Festuccia returns with an extensive review of all the action in Week 27 of Serie A. You can follow Filippo on Twitter here @FilippoFest. Over to you Filippo

We were promised an exciting Serie A weekend, and Italian football did not disappoint. Two huge main events shook the balance at the top, and a heated Sunday afternoon saw ten teams fight tooth and nail a battle in the war to avoid relegation. Juventus and Roma added fuel to their recent streaks, looking almost untouchable in the process, while other top teams faltered and lost a great chance at thinning the competition. This was, overall, the weekend where quality mattered above everything else, as superior creative players allowed teams like Sampdoria and Udinese to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone.

Empoli-Roma proved that Roma is the team to beat right now, and that its competitors will have a hard time holding on to their Champions League spots. Empoli was not suited to fight back, lacking the sheer physical power you’d need to outplay Roma right now. A combination of individual quality and continuous attacks broke down Empoli, despite their credible attempts at goalscoring. Key stat: Roma won the physical game, fouling hard in midfield (9 times) and regaining the ball often, and the technical game, forcing Empoli’s defenders to concede five dangerous free kicks around the box.

Milan-Torino saw Milan establish itself as a cynical attacking machine, creating a large number of chances (19 shots) despite a strong defensive showing by Torino. The red-and-black Devils attacked mostly from the flanks, as wingbacks Abate and Antonelli pushed hard while Bonaventura and Honda often drifted inwards. This posed a costant threat to Torino’s midfield, as Acquah and Baselli had to cover the sides and Vives was left alone in the middle. Key stat: over three quarters of the game were spent in Torino’s half.

Juventus-Inter will be remembered as one of the most important games this season. Inter adopted a very physical strategy to try to counter Juventus’ tenacious offense, but they failed in details and were unable to hit back. The two goals came from very circumstancial situations – a defensive mistake and a questionable penalty – and neither Inter nor Juventus managed to create a large number of chances. Juventus lacked precision in key passes and relied on individual skill to create dangerous opportunities, while Inter crowded spaces with no clear plan to put Icardi in front of Buffon. Ultimately, Juventus proved they have what most teams don’t: the ability to consistently turn a draw into a win. That’s how you win championships, folks. Key stat: Inter only had 1 through ball in the whole game, due to Juventus’ iron defence and a lack of quality in midfield.

Lazio-Sassuolo was one of the most surprising games of the weekend. In my preview I outlined Lazio’s strategy for a Europa League spot – win, win, win, hope Milan drops some points. Their answer to Milan’s win against Torino was poor. Sassuolo gave Lazio possession and territory, as the white-and-blue Eagles set camp in their opponents’ half, but trapped Lazio’s forwards offside 6 times (2 of which inside the box). Sassuolo’s winning strategy was similar to Leicester’s, as they played risky passes (missing many, except for a crucial few) and relied on individual skill (and mistakes by Lazio defenders) to win the game. Key stat: Sassuolo’s forwards had a combined 17 dribbles (13 in or around the box), while Lazio never managed to pierce through their defense (Felipe Anderson only had 4 dribbles, all in midfield).

Fiorentina-Napoli: very exciting game by the two most exciting teams in Serie A. Fiorentina and Napoli traded heavy blows, thanks to Fiorentina’s free-flowing offensive football and Napoli’s incredible set of forwards. Napoli relied heavily on their midfield to bring the ball forward and create chances, while Higuain and Mertens were rarely involved, with a combined 36 touches. As a result, Insigne dropped deep and acted in a support role, stifling his offensive contribution. Fiorentina, on the other hand, was able to involve every offensive player in their web of passes, but had a hard time gaining crucial space and had to shoot from longer distances. Key stat: Fiorentina and Napoli were equal in most things, but most importantly in their center of gravity. The two teams balanced each other in midfield, as Fiorentina gained a small edge controlling 50,7% of the field to Napoli’s 49,3%

In the relegation zone, nothing changed so that everything could change. Five sunday matches proved that, ultimately, quality makes a lot of difference. Sampdoria beat Frosinone thanks to their superior offensive players, while Udinese’s midfield broke Verona. With Carpi’s draw against Atalanta, the bottom three teams had a hellish weekend that might spell the end of their chances to survive in Serie A. Palermo and Genoa, now 16th and 17th in the table, need to step up their game, as they sit a mere handful of points clear of relegation. Palermo managed a goalless draw against Bologna (a team that rarely concedes under Donadoni’s management, as we saw against Juventus), while Genoa showed a worrying lack of cohesion and no defensive ideas.

Thanks Filippo, make sure to keep an eye out for his preview for Week 28 later this week and subsequent articles between now and the end of the season.

If you would like to have any content posted on here then please feel free to contact me at realfootballmanwordpress@gmail.com and hopefully we can get something of yours up as well.

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