Gonzalo who? Arkadiusz Milik erasing Napoli’s sour taste: Five lessons learnt in Italy
Here are five lessons learnt in Italy’s Serie A this weekend:
Juve’s spark gone missing
Barely a week ago Gonzalo Higuain was being feted as a new Juventus hero after a great double strike in a 3-1 home win over Sassuolo. But the Argentine marksman, and other culprits, hit a blank in a scoreless Champions League draw at home to Sevilla on Wednesday and then came up short on their way to a 2-1 “Derby d’Italia” defeat to Inter Milan on Sunday. Higuain started on the bench at the San Siro, where Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira all came up short for the visitors before they were given hope by Swiss wingback Stephan Lichtsteiner’s 66th minute opener against the run of play. Inter responded with goals from Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic to leave Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri calling for “more fight” from his side to win games.
Not giving in to temptation
Not many Italian internationals ply their trade in England’s Premier League, and Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci is not about to break the trend. In fact, he says the closest he got to signing for Manchester City following interest from Pep Guardiola was “feeling tempted”. Bonucci said: “I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t feel tempted. Juventus is my home and I’m happy with the choice I’ve made, but earlier this summer there was definitely some temptation, mostly because of the coach (Guardiola) who wanted me. But my childhood dream is to win trophies with Juventus. I want to give this legendary club everything.”
Napoli’s food stall-holders once goaded club defector Higuain with a “free pizzas for everybody” offer if he suffered injury while playing for rivals Juventus, but fans are now joining the queue to munch on a “Milik” sandwich. Polish international Arkadiusz Milik, signed from Ajax as Higuain’s replacement, has hit six goals in five games, including a double in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Bologna, amid a strong start to the season in Serie A and the Champions League. Higuain hit a Serie A record 36 goals for Napoli last season before stunning the tifosi by joining Juve for an Italian record of €90 million (Dh369m). A “Milik” sandwich – containing sausage, cheese and broccoli – can be bought alongside a (Marek) “Hamsik” at a stall posted metres away from the club’s San Paolo ground, and is said to be the biggest seller.
No one-hit wonder
Qualifying for their first Europa League campaign isn’t enough for Eusebio Di Francesco, whose Sassuolo side are looking to set out their stall for another impressive season in Italy’s top flight. The Neroverdi marked their entry to Europe’s second tier club competition with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday. A week after succumbing 3-1 to Juventus in Turin, Di Francesco’s men bounced back on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Genoa thanks to French striker Gregoire Defrel’s 66th minute strike and Matteo Politano’s penalty on the hour. Sassuolo sit 10th, but only four points behind leaders Napoli before their midweek visit to Chievo.
Inter back on the rise
It took four games of the new season, but Inter Milan proved the old adage that “when there’s a will, there’s a way” on their way to a battling 2-1 win over Juventus that has revived their hopes of ending their six-year wait for the scudetto. Inter’s early season struggles under their new Dutch coach Frank De Boer came to a climax with a shock 2-0 San Siro defeat to Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League on Thursday. But victory over Juventus on Sunday has changed the landscape. Inter buried doubts surrounding the credentials of De Boer with a confident performance that saw Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic beat Gianluigi Buffon after Stephan Lichtsteiner had opened the score for Juve.
Published: September 19, 2016 04:00 AM