This season, Serie A has been about the top teams beating the bottom teams every week. The five best teams have racked up a huge number of points. So far, Napoli and Inter are unbeaten, while Juventus have only lost one game. Two points separate the top three teams, five points separate the top five.
Between November 9 and November 14, the complete European field for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will be decided over the course of eight gut-wrenching playoff ties. The two-legged affairs will mark the final cuts in a qualifying marathon that began with 54 hopefuls back on September 4, 2016, and will end with 14 European nations vying for glory next summer.
For a half-hour inside the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Napoli didn’t just look like the best team in Italy — a statement backed up by their current position in Serie A — they looked like the best side in Europe. An opening period of dominance was stamped by a sensational goal in the 21st minute for the Neapolitans, and everything appeared rosy for the home side before defender Faouzi Ghoulam had to be substituted in the 31st minute with an apparent knee injury.
Stephan El Shaarawy scored what we’re forever calling a Roman Hat Trick. The Roma winger scored two goals in the first half against Chelsea and received a bit of unexpected foreplay from teammate Diego Perotti. Roma beat Chelsea 3-0 on Tuesday in the Rome rematch of the remarkably entertaining 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge a couple weeks ago. El Shaarawy was at the center of it all, spoiling the return of Blues coach Antonio Conte to his native country.
This should have been a fun article to write. This should have been an article in which Lazio were praised and evangelized; the remarkable rehabilitation of striker Ciro Immobile after years in the wilderness; the astounding performance of manager Simone Inzaghi, only appointed after Marcelo Biesla refused to show up for work on his first day; the way in which the entire team has blown away opposition this year, propelling themselves all the way up the table and sitting, right now, level with Juventus. It should have been a fantastically positive article.
But it’s not.
Roberto Donadoni and Nuno Manta have spent most of their careers playing and coaching in the countries of their births. Donadoni played many years AC Milan and has coached all throughout Italy, now leading Bologna. Nuno Manta played for Amigos Cavaco and has spent his entire coaching career at Feirense in the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
Over the weekend, both managers showed various levels of control on the sideline. Their reactions to a ball bouncing toward them tell you all you need to know about Portuguese and Italian football managers.
Juventus defeated AC Milan 2-0 in this weekend’s marquee Serie A matchup with Gonzalo Higuain scoring a phenomenal brace to silence the San Siro.
The significance of the occasion was clearly not lost on Milan supporters as the 80,018-capacity San Siro was absolutely electric, a cauldron of noise as the October sun set on a balmy day in Lombardy. There was a sense that all could be forgiven regarding Milan’s slow start to league play should the Rossoneri put one over on a Juventus side stranded in unfounded territory following 10 matches — third.
Mauro Icardi, the kid you went to high school with who would not shut up about how he was getting out of your little town as soon as he got the chance, has revealed his future career plans.
“I want to win something with this shirt, but I won’t be in football at 40, I’m not like Totti. I’m not going to be a Coach or a director, I don’t think I’d like those roles. I think I’ll just be a dad, at home, with my family."
December, 2016 – Juventus center back Leonardo Bonucci signs a new contract extension, keeping him with the champions until 2021.
January, 2017 – Bonucci is named in the UEFA and Serie A team of the year, as well as winning the award for the best footballer in Serie A in 2016.
February, 2017 – Bonucci sits in the stands, watching Juventus play Porto in the Champions League having argued with manager Massimiliano Allegri during the previous game, his 300th for the club.
Wednesday’s Chelsea-AS Roma game had everything. It had six goals in total, Antonio Rudiger playing against his former team, Gary Cahill wearing a bandage around his head like he just went to the dentist in 1876, Frederico Fazio getting magic spray on his junk because Pedro’s head smashed into his nether regions and an Edin Dzeko goal that might be one of the best you’ll see all year. In the end, Chelsea and AS Roma played to a wildly entertaining 3-3 draw in Champions League group play at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.