Outside90’s Joshua Scarcella breaks down the major talking points to come out of Serie A matchday 31.
Sassuolo are first half specialists
The Neroverde are the team that most Serie A enthusiasts have in their heart and want to see them succeed. The classic underdog story, a small team in the north of Italy hosting an overwhelming majority of Italians in both their starting XI and squad, who have seemingly overachieved since gaining promotion in 2013.
Nicola Sansone’s first half strike ensured an impressive record for Sassuolo and adds them to some astute company with teams much higher than their position in seventh on the table, scoring 26 first half goals for this campaign, only behind Napoli and Roma on 28.
2016 starts late for Mario Mandzukic
The Croatian has experienced highs, lows and everything in between since joining Juventus at the beginning of the season, very much similar to his time spent with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid. Injuries, a different role in the team and a goal drought are best to sum up the Croatian’s campaign, as well as a disappointing exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern.
Soft tissue injuries plagued the striker’s start to life in black and white, however thereafter found the scoresheet on six occasions before the start of the holiday period. It has taken until round 31 for Mandzukic to score his first goal of 2016, again hampered by injuries but also poor form.
Bianconeri of Udine assist Bianconeri of Turin
It was perhaps the biggest upset of the season when Udinese got the better of Napoli this week at home, especially after confronting discussions between the players and ultras at the conclusion of their last match, a 1-1 draw away to Sassulo, which left a sour taste in the mouths of the Bianconeri.
It seems Napoli do not enjoy the Sunday lunchtime time slot, being the second time this season they have lost against inferior opposition in the fixture, outplayed on both occasions.
Gonzalo Higuain experienced the high of a personal milestone, scoring his 65th goal in his 100th Serie A appearance, before losing his cool in spectacular fashion, earning himself a red card and a potential lengthy ban after pushing the referee and shouting abuse at the fourth official on his way out of the stadium. It is an incident that has the potential to derail Napoli’s highly promising campaign.
Italians getting the job done in Torino
It has been a turbulent season for i Granta, gathering a decent amount of hope for the year ahead after the business completed in the summer transfer market. The first half of the season laid enough of a platform to set up a strong run home, however much the opposite has occurred.
The one positive Torino can take from the season is that their Italian contingent has scored more than any other Serie A team so far this season, amounting to 32 goals. With the national team struggling to find the next prolific Roberto Baggio or Christian Vieri, it is a hopeful sign that the smaller clubs such as Torino and Sassuolo can rely on their locals to win them games of football.
Hat-tricks a rarity in Genoa
I Grifone now find themselves at the top end of a high-traffic area on the table. Only 10 points separate 10th and 19th place after a successful run of six matches in which they have collected all three points on four occasions, all at home.
For the club that struggled to find the goals earlier in the season, it seems now they are coming from everywhere. Suso gathered himself a hat-trick for the first time in his professional career against Frosinone and became the first man since Diego Milito in May 2009 to score three goals in the same match for the club, putting him in illustrious company.
No headaches for Il Farone
The sprint home to the finish does not look like running out of steam for Roma, dispatching home-town rivals Lazio in the Derby della Capitale, now unbeaten in their last 10 matches. Much of their recent success can be attributed to a functioning forward line partnership, with Stephan El Shaarawy being the standout.
The 23-year-old’s first half strike was quite incredibly his first headed goal in his entire 27-goal Serie A career and his sixth from nine starts. His revitialised form was rewarded with a call-up to the national team in a recent round of friendly matches where he scored a conciliation goal against Germany.
Inter Milan are the kings of ill-discipline
The Nerazzuri’s eighth loss of the season was quite a definitive one and is the perfect way to sum up their 2016. Since the turn of the new year, the club has dropped to fifth and after Fiorentina slipped up at home this week, the match against Torino was a chance to grasp a buffer between fourth and fifth.
However, the opportunity was left untaken.
Two more red cards in the match at the San Siro now has Inter Milan the second-worst disciplinary record in the league, with nine red cards for the season, only to be topped by Atalanta with 12. It is also the second time in their last seven matches that the Nerazzuri have concluded the match with nine men.