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    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend

    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend

    Week 13 of Serie A is now behind us and James McGhie looks at five things we learned watching Italian football this weekend.

    1) Atalanta are genuine contenders for a Champions League spot.
    Ask any football fan who the form side in Serie A are right now and most likely they’ll reply, “Juventus”; however that honour presently belongs to Atalanta. La Dea have won their last five games and are unbeaten in their last eight and sit in 5th place with only goal difference keeping them out of the Champions League spots. With the scalps of Inter and Napoli already secured, the visit of Roma to Bergamo may have been viewed as their toughest challenge yet, however in a completely one sided 2nd half, a Franck Kessie inspired Atalanta blew the giallorossi  away with a style of pressing, attacking football for which they had no reply. 
    Back to back 3-0 wins over Sassuolo and Genoa had set Atalanta up perfectly for this game but Roma have emerged as the only side who could present Juventus with a hint of a title challenge this season and that is what makes Atalanta’s victory on Sunday all the more impressive. They didn’t just compete with the side challenging for the Scudetto, they outplayed, out fought, and out thought them. Having finished last season in 13th place, they find themselves already just 20 points off matching last season’s tally. If anyone doubted Atalanta’s staying power before now, they had best think again.

    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend
    2) Lorenzo Insigne is back.
    After a 223 day goal drought, months of lacklustre displays, contract wrangles and a much publicised touchline row, Lorenzo Insigne got back to doing what he does best; scoring goals, as Napoli won a tight fought game away in Udine on Saturday evening. Both goals showed great awareness and movement; the first feeding off a driven cross from the right by Callejon with Insigne meeting the ball in the centre of the 6 yard box to fire a right foot shot high into the roof of the net. His second, set up from a similar position but this time by Elseid Hysaj, was scored with the left foot, letting the ball run across his body before finishing first time back across the keeper into the far corner.
    The confidence shown by Insigne in both goals was refreshing and encouraging in equal measure and Napoli fans will be delighted to see a smile on Lorenzo Insigne’s face once more; although they’d perhaps allow themselves a smile should he put doubts surrounding his future to bed and commit his future to the Partenopei.

    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend
    3) Juventus’ squad depth may be more fearsome than we thought.
    Juventus went into round 13 sitting 4 points ahead of Roma and 5 ahead of the Vincenzo Montella’s impressive Milan side, yet chose to rest a host of first team regulars for their game against Pescara as they prepared for their upcoming Champions League clash with Sevilla on Tuesday. Through a combination of managerial choice and injury, the Bianconeri went into the game missing names such as Buffon, Benatia, Barzagli, Chiellini, Alves, Marchisio, Pjanic, and Dybala yet managed to secure a comfortable 3-0 win at the Juventus stadium. Results in Bergamo and Milan meant that despite resting so many star names, they have actually extended their lead over both chasing sides to 7 points.
    While Juventus’ strength in depth has always been recognised, this weekend rammed home the worrying fact that while every other Serie A side needs their best XI just to compete, the Turin side can field a weakened team through choice yet tighten their grip at the top of the table.

    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend
    4) The Rossoneri resurgence is real.
    After the false dawns of Pippo Inzaghi and Sinisa Mihajlovic, the contrast in the fortunes of both San Siro clubs this season could not be further apart. Under the impressive Vincenzo Montella, Milan have structured the spine of their side around Italian youth and can boast some of the finest young players in Serie A. Names like Donnarumma, Romagnoli, and Locatelli have all come to the fore this season, although Mihajlovic can take credit for giving the outstanding Donnarumma his opportunity, but the youngsters haven’t looked out of place. Locatelli spectacularly announced his arrival this season with a stunning winner against Juventus at the San Siro while Donnarumma has continued to defy the fact he is only 17 years of age with some truly world class saves, kicking on from his impressive debut season last term.
    What has also impressed me is the manner in which Montella has got the best out of Suso, a player who looks reborn and who scored two fantastic goals in this weekend’s Milan derby. Suso, who joined Milan in January 2015 from Liverpool, had just 222 minutes of playing time over 5 appearances before being sent on loan to Genoa the following season after just a single appearance in season 2015/2016. Once a forgotten man, Suso has been boosted by the confidence shown in him, starting all of Milan’s Serie A games bar one, the 3-0 loss away to Genoa and scoring 4 goals in the process. One has to wonder just where Montella can take this side once the investment from Milan’s new Chinese owners begins to come through; could we finally have a legitimate contender to Juventus’ dominance?

    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend
    5) Torino will struggle to retain Andrea Belotti. 
    With each passing week, whether it’s for club or country, Andrea Belotti appears to be getting better and better. Without doubt the 22-year-old is the most exciting Italian striker to emerge in years; he’s given the Azzurri a major focal point in attack and with a total of 13 goals for both club and country (10 and 3 respectively), it’s no surprise that the envious eyes of the Premier League have begun focusing their attentions on him with Arsenal, Chelsea, and Everton believed to have scouted the player already.
    Torino currently find themselves in 7th place in Serie A, just 2 points behind Napoli who they play on December 18th and while a European spot is most certainly their main ambition this season, it may not be enough to stop the sale of their star man come the summer; regardless of whether he renews his current deal with Torino.

    Five things we learned watching Serie A this weekend

    James McGhie (@jrmcghie) is the founder of @SemprePodcast,the original & best SSC Napoli podcast for English speaking supporters across the world. 

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