Five Things First: Top Stories From Serie A Round 31

In what was quite an unexpected turn of events, the latest Serie A round saw the top two clubs in the ranking both losing their games as Lecce shocked Lazio on Tuesday and Juventus saw Milan coming from behind after taking a two-goal lead.

As Inter came up with another disappointing performance and were held onto a 2-2 draw by Verona, Atalanta took advantage of the situation to pass Conte’s Nerazzurri and position themselves third in the table.

Sassuolo made a full score in Bologna to claim a regional Derby dell’Emilia, while there were few changes at the bottom of the table, with Brescia and SPAL almost certain to be relegated by now.

Here are our top stories from Round 31 of Serie A:

Stefano Pioli Deserves Another Shot at Milan

Ralf Rangnick’s appointment as future Milan coach is a typical example of, to say it the Italian way, Segreto di Pulcinella (“Pulcinella’s Secret”) i.e. something supposed to be kept secret or unconfirmed but which is openly known by pretty much everybody.

However, seeing how the Rossoneri thrashed Juventus on Tuesday, coming from behind to deliver four goals to Maurizio Sarri’s band, makes you wonder whether the Elliot fund club should actually consider extending current boss Stefano Pioli’s contract for the next season.

So far, Pioli has been doing what he was hired for: Maneuvering the club out of troubled waters until the end of the season after a disappointing start under the helm of Marco Giampaolo. He is a specialist at that, having done exactly the same for cross-town rivals Inter when they sacked Frank De Boer at the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign.

But Pioli has done much more than that, playing a key part in getting the best out of players like Hakan Calhanoglu, Ante Rebic, and, more recently, Lucas Paquetá and Alexis Saelemaekers.

With Rangnick being able to cover both a manager and a football director position, leaving Pioli on the bench while the German mostly deals with management tasks could be an idea worth considering by the Rossoneri intelligentsia.

Stefano Pioli has been doing a great job at Milan so far. Perhaps letting him go at the end of the season would not be such a great idea…

What’s Happening To Lazio?

The party seems to be over for Lazio. Few could really believe that the Biancocelesti would keep Juventus’ pace until the end of the campionato, but their third loss out of five games after the lock-down has now put ever their second place in the table under discussion.

If losing to Atalanta and Milan – two of the clubs which came out of the pandemic in the best state of form – could be acceptable, Tuesday’s 1-2 defeat to relegation-battling Lecce raised a red flag to coach Simone Inzaghi, especially as the Giallorossi from Apulia were coming from a six-game losing streak.

Injuries and absences have not been helping Inzaghi since the restart, but the fact the Lazio came back from Lecce with empty hands despite taking the lead with Felipe Caicedo, as well as Patric’s stupid expulsion – the Brazilian saw red for biting his marker Giulio Donati during stoppage time – show that the problem with Lazio might be mental rather than due to form.

Patric resorted to a pretty unconventional marking technique to try to get the best of his opponent Giulio Donati. Buon appetito!

Genoa and Lecce To Battle For Survival

Lecce’s victory assumed even bigger importance as Fabio Liverani’s boys were the only relegation-battling side to gain some points in Round 31.

By toppling Lazio, the Giallorossi moved one point ahead of Genoa at 28 and would be safe if the campionato were to end today. The Rossoblu fought well but ultimately fell 1-2 to Napoli at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium and will likely be battling with Lecce to avoid the third relegation spot.

Genoa and Lecce will face each other on Sunday, July 19, and – with SPAL and Brescia almost condemned by now and Sampdoria in a comfortable position five points ahead of their city rivals – the match could be decisive to determine which side will be falling into Serie B.

Sassuolo Claim Emilia Derby To Make Mihajlovic Furious

Sassuolo claimed one of the multiple Emilian derbies in Serie A (there are four clubs in the Italian top-flight based in the Emilia Region: Bologna, Parma, Sassuolo, and SPAL) as they beat Bologna 1-2 at the Renato Dall’Ara Stadium.

Roberto De Zerbi’s Neroverdi are one of the less eye-catching sides in the Serie A, but little by little have been climbing the ranks and are currently sitting eighth with 43 points. Sassuolo have scored 16 goals in 6 games since the post-lock-down restart. That’s even more than Atalanta’s goal machine.

The Europa League is now only six points away and, while it may be premature to think they may grab a European slot, this 8th place is already a remarkable achievement for a club whose usual season target is avoiding relegation.

Sassuolo’s exploit obviously didn’t make Sinisa Mihajlovic happy as the Bologna coach appeared pretty nervous during and after the game. On top of being sent off for quarreling with an assistant referee, in a post-match interview he let himself go to a bitter rant against an Italian TV show guilty in his eyes of not having dedicated enough space to Bologna’s victory over Inter on Sunday.

You talked for half an hour about Inter and didn’t spend a single word for Bologna. It looked like you were working for Inter Channel. It’s a shame.” Never a boring day with Sinisa.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s face says it all. Bologna’s coach was not happy about the lack of TV coverage dedicated to the Rossoblu’s win over Inter last Sunday

Atalanta’s Winning Streak Continues

And now it’s nine wins in a row, with a perfect record of six out of six after the post-pandemic restart. Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta seem to have no intention to end their dream. The Bergamaschi ousted Sampdoria 2-0 on Wednesday, bending Claudio Ranieri’s side’s resistance only after 75 minutes, but ultimately prevailing thanks to goals by Rafael Toloi and Luis Muriel.

Thanks to Inter’s halt in Verona, with the Nerazzurri held on to a draw by the Ivan Juric’s Gialloblu, Atalanta have now moved to the third spot in the table and are just two points behind second-placed Lazio – not to mention that the Bergamaschi will be competing in the Champions League “Final Eight” in Lisbon in August.

Can you name one team – one – in the whole of Europe that is experiencing the same state of form as Gasperini’s band?

It’s nine wins in a row for Atalanta and perhaps it is not an exaggeration to state that Gian Piero Gasperini’s Bergamaschi are currently the most performing team in Europe! (Photo: Paolo Magni/ANSA)