Top 5 Stories of Serie A Round 16: Juve Lit-Up the Race

It wasn’t just another Wednesday around the Italian Peninsula, as the day was fully-packed with non-stop Serie A action. All ten matches of round 16 took place on the same day, and even before the much-anticipated battle between Milan and Juventus, some shocking results were on display, mainly Inter’s loss to Sampdoria, and Spezia’s upset against Napoli. So let’s begin our roundup of the day with the Top 5 stories from Serie A round 16.

Atalanta Have Found their Feet Once Again 

It has been some incredibly tense few months at Bergamo, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s men weren’t displaying their impressive football from the past few seasons, and a dispute between the tactician and his captain Alejandro Gómez threatened to ruin Atalanta’s whole season.

Nonetheless, the northerners managed to qualify for the round of 16 of the Champions League, and their Serie A results have massively improved, including dominating victories over the likes of Roma and Sassuolo.

In their latest 3-0 win over Parma, Atalanta proved that they are able to navigate their way without Papu Gómez who is expected to depart in January. Although no Oribici player possesses the unique skill-set of the Argentine, the emergence of Matteo Pessina has given the side a newly-found tactical balance, while the likes of Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata are delivering up-front.

Borja Mayoral could be Roma’s Version of Alvaro Morata 

Borja Mayoral is a young player who possesses all the tools needed to become a complete striker. However, the Spaniard wasn’t given enough space at his parent club Real Madrid, and after a series of loan spells, he decided to try his luck at Roma.

Overthrowing his captain Edin Džeko for a starting berth was never going to be an easy task, but whenever given the opportunity to play a Serie A fixture, the Spanish striker has proved to be a reliable forward who can score all sort of goal, and after his brilliant brace against Crotone in round 16, his coach Paulo Fonseca is now considering the prospect of lining him next to the Bosnian in the weekend’s clash against Inter.

Mayoral’s story isn’t too unfamiliar, as another young struggling Real Madrid striker had arrived at Italy few years ago to slowly become a fan favorite at Juventus. So can the new Roma forward maintain his scoring run to become the capital’s version of Alvaro Morata?

Ranieri Proves that he Still is a Tactical Fox 

A lot has been said about Antonio Conte’s approach to the round 16 fixture against Sampdoria, where Inter lost a golden chance to take the Serie A lead from their neighbors. But losing a game after an impressive run of eight wins in a row is not exactly a disaster, so instead we would rather focus on the Blucerchiati’s positive display.

Claudio Ranieri’s most famous tenure is unquestionably his time at Leicester City when he delivered what is arguably the most shocking league triumph in football history. But despite leaving the former Premier League champions, the old tactician has proved that once you play with the foxes, you’ll forever remain a fox.

Against his old side, Ranieri decided to make some tactical tweaks, like starting Maya Yoshida as a right-back rather center-back, and instead of playing with two strikers as usual, the speedy Keita Baldé was used as a lone striker, supported by the young Mikkel Damsgaard, a surprising combination that eventually delivered an unlikely victory for the tinkerman.

Napoli Can’t Afford to Keep Making Mistakes 

As we said previously on several occasions, an in-form Napoli can be the most devastating team in the league, but unfortunately for the Partenopei faithfuls, their side fails to deliver on constant basis, and now they find themselves in an unsatisfactory 6th spot in Serie A table, after their shocking 2-1 home loss to the newly-promoted Spezia.

So what went wrong this time for Gennaro Gattuso?

Whilst it’s hard to detect just one obvious problem, one must notice that the former Milan manager opted to start without a true center-forward, which resulted in Lorenzo Insigne and Hirving Lozano wasting a host of chances in the first half, at a time where they could have completely killed off the match.

Despite the absence of main striker Victor Osimhen, the Napoli squad is blessed with several other strikers who can deputise for the big Nigerian, and chief among them is Andrea Petagna who immediately delivered after his introduction in the second half, not to forget Fernando Llorente and even the frozen-out Arkadiusz Milik.

The Dries Mertens experiment as a false-nine doesn’t always bare its fruits, and Gattuso would be wise to stick to a natural hitman, especially with Petagna being in a good form.

Juve’s Victory Over Milan Lit-up the Serie A Table

Despite both teams suffering from a couple of Covid-19 cases, the top clash of Serie A round 16 thankfully went ahead, and Juventus ended up earning a much-needed 3-1 win over Milan to make the league table more interesting than ever.

Federico Chiesa’s heroics from Wednesday brought the champions within 7 points (with a match in hand) of the Rossoneri who remain at the top of the table, while Inter’s surprising defeat and Roma’s quiet rise only made things more interesting for what could end up being one of the best Scudetto races in recent memory.