Whisper it. Napoli could be champions. It could be their year. Finally, after half a decade of Juventus dominance in Serie A, a team has emerged that could legitimately challenge for the title. Not just because Juve has stumbled, but because Napoli is a legitimately fantastic team. Along with Manchester City, Maurizio Sarri’s men are playing the best football in the world right now. Could it be enough to take them to the top?
A Mauro Icardi hat trick inspired Inter Milan to a 3-2 victory over AC Milan in the Milan derby on Sunday at the San Siro. The two Serie A Derby della Madonnina matchups last year ended in 2-2 draws and it appeared Sunday’s would as well after Milan scored a late equalizer, but Icardi scored his third goal with a penalty shot in the 90th minute.
For the first time since the 1998-99 season, no manager in Serie A has been fired after seven matches. All twenty teams have decided to stick with their coach, even the terrible ones. It’s a quirk of fate, remarkable only because of the trigger-happy tendencies of Serie A owners past. But there’s one Italian manager who should almost definitely be fired. Unfortunately, he’s the coach of the national team.
We here at The18 have never really given much thought to Francesco Guidolin. The former Swansea City, Monaco and Palermo manager just never crossed our minds in a way that was interesting. Until now. It has been reported that in 2006, when Guidolin was managing at Palermo, he used a very, um, explosive prop in a team talk.
Ahead of the weekend, the most eye-catchingest of matches was undoubtedly AC Milan versus Roma at San Siro on Sunday. It was one of those neat and tidy matches, games which allow us to check in with two teams who are competing with the same aim: finish in the top four, possibly threaten a title challenge.
It’s time to talk about Paulo Dybala. Actually, it was probably time to talk about Dybala two months ago, when he was rightly titillating the interest of the Barcelona board, possibly plugging a recently-emerged Neymar-sized hole in their starting XI. But even since then, Dybala has gone to a whole new level. Is it time to start talking about Dybala as being one of the very best in the world?
For years, Serie A was regarded as something of an old man’s game. No doubt aided by MilanLab’s ability to keep players on the pitch far beyond their expected sell-by date, there was a collective notion that Italian football wasn’t the font of youth and energy that was found in France, Germany or Britain. Players made their debuts later and continued to play well into their thirties. The likes of Seedorf, Gattusso and Pirlo lasted longer in Serie A than they would in other leagues.
Serie A was struck by storms this weekend. While the United States was dealing with the horrors of the hurricanes, areas such as Livorno experienced their own extreme weather and loss of life. Miraculously, all but one match took place.
There were surprises. AC Milan faced its first real challenge and failed spectacularly. Fiorentina’s new-look side seemed to click and ran out 5-0 winners against a hapless Verona team. There were also more run-of-the-mill fixtures. Juventus won. Napoli won. Inter won. Fairly standard, really.
This past Saturday, Spain hosted Italy in a World Cup qualifier at the Bernabeu in Madrid. Both sides have won the competition in the post-millennial age and can justifiably feel bitter about being drawn in the same group. Italy, who have a well-established tradition of being utterly awful in the qualifying rounds of international tournaments yet miraculously not losing, are now at risk of finishing second in the group.
It's been said on this website that on recent form Isco is the best player in the world. I have not been saying this, but Isco made me a believer today with his performance in Spain's 3-0 win against Italy, all but guaranteeing them World Cup qualification.
Isco's first goal was a beautiful free kick that hopefully ensures Sergio Ramos never again decides he should be the one to take set pieces for Spain.