Five things we learned from Serie A

Milan (AFP) – Frank De Boer’s candidness is a breath of fresh air at Inter, Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri can see the future — and it may involve former striker Gonzalo Higuain not scoring for Juventus in their next game.

Here are five things we learned in Italy’s Serie A last weekend. 

Dutch courage? Not for De Boer

Many Inter fans thought Frank De Boer had lame excuses when it was claimed he inherited an ‘unfit’ side from Roberto Mancini after the Italian left the club two weeks before the start of the season. But De Boer was just being candid, and continues to be so. The Dutchman’s no-nonsense approach saw attacking midfielder Marcelo Brozovic sidelined for the fifth consecutive game after the Croatia international was caught posting playful pictures of himself and his girlfriend while Inter were on their way to a 3-1 defeat by Sparta Prague in the Europa League. After a 2-1 defeat to Roma left Inter seven points off leaders Juventus, De Boer took umbrage with Portuguese international midfielder Joao Mario and defender Cristian Ansaldi. Mario, he said, “wasn’t great. He lost an easy ball to give (Mohamed) Salah a scoring chance.” And Ansaldi “just couldn’t find his legs”. Thankfully, De Boer added: “But both of them are good players.”

Sarri the soothsayer

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has always had a healthy mistrust of media predictions, and last weekend he proved everyone right. Fresh from a morale-boosting 4-2 win over Portuguese champions Benfica in the Champions League, Sarri immediately warned pundits about the danger of their next opponents, Atalanta. The Bergamo-based are among those who are usually stuck between fighting for survival and respectability, but they must have heeded Sarri’s words. After just nine minutes, Andrea Petagna pounced on a Napoli defensive blunder that saw the ball come off Faouzi Ghoulam’s face and into his path to slam the ball past Pepe Reina. Atalanta held on for a precious win that left Napoli four points behind Juventus.

Higuain odds on… not to score in next game

After breaking a 66-year-old record to score 36 goals for Napoli in Serie A last season, Gonzalo Higuain continues to make a bright start for new club Juventus. But only every once or twice in the odd game, quite literally. The Argentine striker has hit the net six times in the league so far to sit level with Inter Milan striker and compatriot Mauro Icardi. But all of Higuain’s goals come every odd game. He hit the winner in Juve’s opening win over Fiorentina and the first two goals in Juve’s 3-1 win over Sassuolo in matchday three. It took until two games later for the Argentine to hit the net again with the second goal in a 4-0 win over Cagliari. After hitting a blank a 1-0 win at Palermo, Higuain struck twice on Sunday, the seventh game of the season, in a 3-0 win at Empoli that left Juve four points clear of Napoli. In game eight, Juventus host Udinese.

Donkeys are flying

Chievo don’t often get the chance to rub shoulders with the high-flyers in Serie A, but after seven games the ‘Flying Donkeys’ are doing just that. Rolando Maran’s men opened their campaign with a 2-0 home win over Inter Milan, held Lazio to a draw, beat Udinese away, beat Sassuolo at home and made up for a 2-0 defeat at title-chasing Napoli with a 2-0 away defeat of Pescara on Sunday. Thanks to results elsewhere, the Verona-based side sit fifth at just five points behind leaders Juventus, two ahead of Inter Milan and one place ahead of AC Milan thanks to superior goals difference. 

Score a goal, sign a contract

Emotions ran high at the San Siro when AC Milan completed a stunning come-from-behind 4-3 win over Sassuolo in which teenaged midfielder Manuel Locatelli leveled the scores at 3-3 with his maiden goal for the club. Afterwards, club CEO Adriano Galliani announced the 18-year-old Italy youth player had signed a contract extension that will see him remain with the fallen Serie A giants through to 2020. Locatelli’s stunning goal, a half-volley from the edge of the area following a poor clearance by the visitors, sent the stadium into raptures. Gabriel Paletta’s header three minutes later sealed the win to move Milan up to sixth at five points behind leaders Juventus.

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