Spalletti Produced a Complete Inter Against Chievo

Inter demolished Chievo 5-0 on Sunday afternoon CET and the performance from the Nerazzurri was the most complete one so far under new coach Luciano Spalletti.

The former Roma tactician was missing three key players in Miranda, Matias Vecino, and Roberto Gagliardini but the Biscione remarkably played better without them and balanced defensive solidarity with attacking impetus.

Previous performances from Inter were scrappy at best but the Milanese giants were able to collect points despite their unconvincing displays. On Sunday the Nerazzurri were the dominant side from the first whistle despite some attacking forays from the Veronese team in the first half.

Without the three aforementioned absentees, Spalletti started Andrea Ranocchia in defence while Marcelo Brozovic and Joao Mario started in midfield. The changes in personnel also allowed Spanish midfielder Borja Valero to play in a deep-lying playmaker role instead of operating as an attacking midfielder behind Mauro Icardi.

Making these adjustments to the team without switching formation worked to Inter’s advantage. Valero had arguably his best game for the Biscione, completing 101 passes and passing with 98 per cent accuracy. Playing deeper allowed him to dictate the play and he had more space to do so than if he had played as a trequartista.

Joao Mario operated as an auxiliary playmaker in midfield by keeping his passes simple and effective. He wasted two chances to score in the first half but his attempted shot at the end of the match became an assist for Ivan Perisic’s third goal and the Bauscia‘s fifth of the match.

The attacking midfield role was occupied by Brozovic, who provided the assist for Icardi’s strike, and he also played a part in Milan Skriniar’s goal by switching the ball to Antonio Candreva on the right-wing before the former Lazio winger crossed for the Slovakian defender to head it in.

Candreva put in another energetic display on the right-wing and he could have scored in the opening minutes of the second half, but the clear standout individual was left-winger Ivan Perisic, who scored a hat-trick.

The Croatian international has been a match-winner for Inter in the past but has also lacked consistency. In 2017/18 he has scored seven goals in 15 Serie A matches and on current form he should be able to add to that tally with ease.

One of Inter’s clear strengths is its defence but it is incredible to see certain players in that back line against Chievo perform well under Spalletti’s tutelage. Danilo D’Ambrosio’s form this season has earned him call-ups to the Italian national team, Davide Santon reminded people why he was so highly rated in his teens, and Ranocchia was surprisingly reliable and confident.

D’Ambrosio made his regular forays forward but Santon in particular looked dangerous. He took a shot from the left before Perisic opened the scoring with the rebound and another powerful shot of his just went wide.

The 26-year-old has struggled with injuries in recent seasons but against Chievo he looked rapid and energetic, demonstrating why he was compared to Italian legends Giacinto Facchetti and Paolo Maldini in the late 2000s.

In recent years Ranocchia has been a source of ridicule because of his calamitous errors but he looked like transformed player against the Mussi Volanti. Solid in defence, comfortable playing the ball out from the back, and an aerial threat at set-pieces, the 29-year-old was able to join his team in attack without neglecting his defensive duties too much.

For all the outstanding performers in the team, it was intriguing that Inter centre-forward and captain Mauro Icardi scored just one goal, but it is a testament to his teammates for contributing with the goals and providing the Nerazzurri with additional scoring options.

The victory against Chievo result puts them on top of the Serie A table after 15 rounds and Spalletti’s team looks more convincing than what it was under Roberto Mancini two seasons ago.

Spalletti is in his first season as Inter coach but he has already created stability as well as demonstrating the ability to put out-of-form players back on track and the win against the Flying Donkeys was a fine of example of how the Nerazzurri squad have bought into his methods in a short time.


Sampdoria Reserves Show Their Worth Against Pescara

Starting an abundance of players that are usually reserves can sometimes throw a team off balance but Sampdoria won comfortably in its Coppa Italia fourth round fixture with Pescara with only a few of the regulars featuring from the first whistle.

Coach Marco Giampaolo started just three of his regulars in Il Doria’s 4-1 victory against the Delfini, and although their opponents rested some of their own players, the Blucerchiati reserves made the most of their opportunity.

Samp lost 3-0 in their Round 14 Serie A match away to Bologna so there needed to be a response and the changes made by Giampaolo paid dividends.

The clear standout was Polish starlet Dawid Kownacki, who scored two goals and created one for Gaston Ramirez. The Pole opened the scoring with a tap-in after Valerio Verre headed down Ramirez’s free-kick and then he sealed the result with a low diagonal drive from the right side of the penalty box.

Originally seen as a replacement for the departed Patrik Schick, Kownacki is a striker with similar attributes and could emulate the Czech prodigy at Sampdoria. Tall and elegant, he too can score goals despite limited opportunities. So far the 20-year-old has played just 68 minutes of Serie A time but has scored every 34 minutes.

He was paired with Gianluca Caprari in attack, who has been in-and-out of the Doriani squad but the former Pescara forward is another player capable of making the most of limited opportunities.

Although he squandered a great chance to make it 2-0 when he was one-on-one with Delfini goalkeeper Mirko Pigliacelli by shooting wide, he atoned for it by exchanging passes with Ramirez and scored the third goal of the match.

Giampaolo usually uses Caprari as a trequartista behind Duvan Zapata and Fabio Quagliarella but he played as a support striker against Pescara and he benefited from playing a more familiar role. He now has two goals in the Coppa Italia in addition to his three strikes in Serie A.

Another former Pescara player who played well for Sampdoria against the Delfini was midfielder Valerio Verre. In addition to creating Kownacki’s first goal, he was praised for his ball-winning abilities in the TuttoMercatoWeb player ratings.

Giampaolo has gradually given the 23-year-old more playing time in Serie A and he is starting to be more influential in games. The likes of Dennis Praet, Edgar Barreto and Karol Linetty are likely to play more in the league fixtures but the improved form of Verre adds healthy competition for midfield spots.

Back-up goalkeeper Christian Puggioni was another Il Doria player who performed admirably despite not being a first-choice player.

Although he started the first 10 matches of the 2017/18 Serie A season, he lost his spot in the team once Emiliano Viviano returned from injury but the 36-year-old demonstrated that he is a fine deputy by making excellent saves from a Marco Carraro strike and two efforts from Simone Ganz.

The defence in front of Puggioni did not fare too greatly in the ratings from the Italian press but Vasco Regini was given a 7/10 by La Gazzetta dello Sport. Often criticised on social media by Samp fans, the former captain has played better when he is plays in central defence instead of the left-back role.

It is important for reserve players to make their most of their opportunities whenever the regulars are injured or rested and it is arguably more crucial for the smaller teams because injuries to key players can really affect them.

Sampdoria might have been playing against a Serie B team but those players on the pitch made the most of their time and hopefully it sends a signal to the regulars that no spots can be guaranteed this season.


Italian Clubs Must Learn from Modena Demise

Modena has been forced into folding after failing to pay off its debts and will not be allowed to finish the 2017/18 Serie C campaign off.

The Canarini had been declining since being relegated from Serie A in 2003/04 and then Serie B in 2015/16 but the final straw came after they forfeited their last four Serie C Girone B matches against Mestre, AlbinoLeffe, Padova, and Santarcangelo, which resulted in the Emilia-Romagna club being expelled on November 6.

It is a shame that Italian teams keep falling into crises like these but presidents and directors must change the way the clubs are being run these days.

Gone are the days when Italian industrialists could spend billions of Lire or millions of Euros to purchase the best players in the world and now these stars are more like to play in the Spanish Primera Division (La Liga) or the English Premier League.

We need to see Italian clubs invest more wisely and also become more realistic about the targets. There is little point in trying to overachieve if it results in a club going in debt later on.

Clubs such as Fiorentina, Napoli, Parma, and Venezia are just a few of the clubs that have gone bankrupt in the last two decades and they had to reform. Most of those clubs spent an abundance on money on gigantic transfer fees but it hurt them financially in the long term.

Italian clubs need to provide more stability unlike Cagliari, Palermo, and Genoa that have a history of sacking coaches regularly and constantly changing their squads. How can clubs progress up the Serie A table if there is instability on and off the field?

Throughout the 2010s, there have been a number of teams that have climbed from the lower divisions in Italy and have earned promotion to the top flight.

Clubs such as Novara, Sassuolo, Carpi, Frosinone, Crotone, SPAL, and Benevento have shown that it is not necessary to spend vast sums of money and it is better to focus on good scouting and developing youth instead.

Aside from SPAL – who come from Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region – and Novara, these teams come from towns with less than 100,000 people so achieving promotion to Serie A is more remarkable for these sides.

The rise of both Carpi and Sassuolo are particularly remarkable because they both come from the province of Modena. The Canarini are now defunct yet their local rivals have been run far more shrewdly and have clear projects.

The biancorossi used to acquire the best young players in the amateur leagues thanks to sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli and they went from playing in Serie D in 2009/10 to playing in Serie A in 2015/16 while the Neroverdi thanks to the financial support of Mapei have become a stable Serie A side and have been keen to prioritise the development of Italian starlets.

Perhaps Modena was lacking that sort of project or those recruitment policies but once the club is reformed, the new owners and directors need to find financial stability and identify talent in better ways.

Sadly the Gialloblu are not the only club to have been run poorly and fold in recent years. Numerous others in Italy have endured this fate and it needs to stop. Dreams cannot be confused with reality and clubs cannot look for quick solutions to reach the top.

Italian football must learn from the expulsion of Modena because incompetent management and poor spending should not be tolerated.


Benevento Must Have Faith in De Zerbi

Although Benevento has failed to collect points in its maiden Serie A campaign, the Stregoni must not believe that all is lost and they must persist with Roberto De Zerbi as coach.

The former Palermo tactician has replaced Marco Baroni as coach but the newly-promoted side still have not collected their first points in Italy’s top flight. The Campanian club almost got its first point on Sunday against Sassuolo but the Emilian team won 2-1 at the death.

De Zerbi worked wonders in Lega Pro with Foggia in 2015/16, with current Benevento striker Pietro Iemmello playing under him back then, and it would be fantastic if they could succeed in Serie A.

Although he is not a defensive-minded tactician, he knew his team’s limitations and the Sanniti were able to take a shock lead against Juventus thanks to a sumptuous Amato Ciciretti free-kick before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat in Round 12.

More often that not, De Zerbi will encourage his team to attack, but the roster he has to work with is weak. Benevento has quick wingers but the rest of the team lacks technique or they are not good enough to play at the highest level.

For the Streghe to be more competitive in Italy’s top flight, they need to adapt to the methods of their coach quickly. Ideally the team must be well organised and play at a high tempo.

Unsettling opponents with pace and instinct are needed to atone for a lack of skill and good positioning as well as creating spaces are important in helping De Zerbi’s philosophy work.

Palermo was a bad place for the former Foggia coach to impose his methods on the squad because of the limited patience of Rosanero president Maurizio Zamparini so perhaps Benevento could provide him with a more tranquil work environment despite the club’s current position in the league table.

If the Sanniti can turn things around and finally get their first Serie A points, then president Oreste Vigorito and sporting director Salvatore Di Somma should give him time for him to implement his methods properly.

De Zerbi is a Pep Guardiola imitator whereas his predecessor Baroni did not mimic a particular coach or style of play so I expect Benevento to develop more of an identity under the 38-year-old.

Iemmello could be a prolific scorer if he is provided with the right service and he can improve his accuracy. Ciciretti and Marco D’Alessandro have the ability to provide assists from the wings but central midfield is a concern. Ledian Memushaj might not be a playmaker of Serie A standard despite being an Albanian international and Danilo Cataldi has not been able to live up to his potential.

The Streghe should consider looking improving the midfield in January and I reckon they should look at players like Leonardo Capezzi and Valerio Verre from Sampdoria, Alberto Grassi at SPAL, Simone Pontisso from Udinese, Lorenzo Crisetig from Bologna, and Riccardo Saponara from Fiorentina.

It would be great if De Zerbi can create a miracle at Benevento and help the club survive because Italian football needs more attack-minded coaches and less conservative ones.

Despite working with squad that looks out of his depth in Serie A, the former Foggia tactician has philosophy and if he can make it work, it will make a Stregoni miracle feel even sweeter.

Marco Verratti Looks Like the New Riccardo Montolivo

Although he was touted as a star of the future, Italy playmaker Marco Verratti is looking more like the new Riccardo Montolivo than the next Andrea Pirlo.

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder made his breakthrough for his local club Pescara which won the 2011/12 Serie B and he left Italy before his 20th birthday.

Despite what he has achieved in France, the 25-year-old has not transmitted that form onto the international stage, scoring just once and proving only two assists in 24 matches for Italy.

Verratti lacks confidence when he plays for Italy and his play is unimaginative and predictable. He is a player with excellent technical ability but he does not express it enough on the international stage.

Not all the blame can be placed on the diminutive midfielder for having such an underwhelming international career. Italian football in general has declined since the Azzurri won the 2006 World Cup and the Calciopoli scandal and he has already played under three different national team coaches that have different philosophies. Injuries also ruled him out of Euro 2016.

Giampiero Ventura has been a disappointment as the Azzurri coach but if Verratti was the star that he was expected to be, he would have the ability to carry the team by providing leadership and creating moments of magic out of nothing.

There are two Italian playmakers of recent times that the former Pescara midfielder can be compared to on the basis of the roles they play: Andrea Pirlo and Riccardo Montolivo.

Pirlo was a playmaker that took time to get going but he proved to be a player who got better with age just like a fine wine. He has retired so to compare Verratti with him might seem unfair but the PSG midfielder is a player does possess a lot of talent which he does not show often enough.

Montolivo, on the other hand, was expected to be a star in midfield for Italy but he has often been a rather timid player at club level and on the international stage. Although Verratti has produced some excellent performances with Les Parisiens, he has never been a match-winner or dominant figure in a game for the Azzurri and the same can be said about Montolivo’s international career.

Leading into the World Cup play-offs against Sweden, he was already on a yellow card and he managed to get one in the 1-0 defeat in Stockholm, ruling him out of the second leg on Monday evening CET (Tuesday morning AEDT).

He had a chance to change the game but he played poorly and got a rating of 4/10 by Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Due to his lack of influence for his country, he cannot really be considered to be a great loss for the second leg. Perhaps he cannot cope with the pressure and expectations that were placed upon him at a young age or he might not be as great as originally expected.

At 25 years of age, Verratti still has time to improve as well as fulfil his potential, but on the basis of what Azzurri fans have seen so far, he might go down as a “what-if” than an all-time great.

Sampdoria Coach Giampaolo is the Genoa Slayer

Forget about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Meet Marco Giampaolo the Genoa slayer.

Since he became the coach of Sampdoria in 2016, he has won all three Derby della Lanterna clashes that he has been involved and that included winning both Genoa Derbies in the 2016/17 campaign.

Before last season, the last time the Doriani had won both derbies in a Serie A campaign was in 1959/60, but Giampaolo achieved that in his first year and with a young squad too.

When Sampdoria last won three Genoa Derbies in a row, it was a streak that started in 1950/51 and it continued when the Rossoblu returned in 1953/54. Those results were achieved under different coaches Giampaolo achieved three consecutive victories himself.

On Saturday evening CET (Sunday morning AEDT) Sampdoria defeated Genoa 2-0 in what was the Grifone’s home game at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris but it was Il Doria that dominated the match. Although Samp weren’t at their fluid best, they were still able to dictate the play despite the pressure that the Rossoblu tried to apply.

While Genoa coach Ivan Juric had to rely on Adel Taarabt and Gianluca Lapadula to create and finish off chances for his side, Giampaolo’s football is about the collective despite having players who are capable of producing moments of brilliance.

The Derby della Lanterna in the last decade has often produced matches that are tight and physical but the latest edition was not as vigorous as others aside from the first half moment when Armando Izzo stomped on Fabio Quagliarella’s leg and surprisingly the Genoa defender was not sent off.

There were parts of the second half in which the Blucerchiati dropped back and the Genoani pressed hard for the equaliser but Quagliarella and Ricky Alvarez squandered chances to seal the victory before the 34-year-old striker scored the second with six minutes remaining.

Since Giampaolo has arrived at the club, he has persisted in a compact 4-3-1-2 formation and he encourages his team to take the initiative against opposing sides. Sampdoria plays a lot of short passes and the players often take one or two touches to control the ball before giving the ball to a teammate.

Although the 4-3-1-2 is a formation that encourages narrow play, strikers Duvan Zapata and Quagliarella provide plenty of movement and they happy to drift towards the wings when necessary. Zapata was excellent on Saturday, setting-up both Doria goals.

Club patron Massimo Ferrero has allowed the tactician time and space to implement his philosophy whereas Genoa has had a habit of changing coaches regularly. This allows the Blucerchiati players to understand Giampaolo’s methods and the squad has clearly accepted his way of coaching.

When Gian Piero Gasperini coached the Grifone, his teams played excellent football against most opponents but they were cynical and thuggish in derby games. Giampaolo does not need to sink low and he encourages Sampdoria to stick to its own style as opposed to changing it because of the circumstances and opponent.

In under 18 months Giampaolo has collected some impressive results as Sampdoria coach. Last season he defeated both Milanese clubs at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, won both clashes against Inter, defeated second place Roma 3-2, and he is responsible for Il Doria’s current hegemony in the Derby della Lanterna.

With his ability to collect victories in one of Italy’s most passionate and colourful derbies, the Sampdoria tactician should be referred to now on as the Genoa slayer.

Sassuolo Decline Evident After Di Francesco Departure

It seems to be inevitable and with 11 rounds completed so far in the 2017/18 Serie A season, Sassuolo is experiencing a decline in performances and results since former coach Eusebio Di Francesco left for Roma in the summer.

Gone is the flowing attacking football played under “Difra”, and the team is developing a new identity under new tactician Cristian Bucchi, who has made the style of play more conservative than in previous seasons.

Perhaps Bucchi has made the climb up too soon. He took Maceratese to the Lega Pro play-offs in 2015/16 and managed to get Perugia into the Serie B play-offs a season later but his Sassuolo side is currently 17th on the Serie A table with just eight points.

The Neroverdi lost 3-1 away to Napoli on Sunday afternoon CET, which is not something to be too disappointed about considering how well the Partenopei have been playing this season, but this is now their seventh league defeat of the season. That is worse than their maiden campaign in 2013/14 when they lost six of their first 11 matches.

Under the coaching of Di Francesco, Sasol had an exciting style of play and there was a focus on developing young Italian talent. Although the squad is still predominantly Italian, there have not been many of them emerging like they did under Di Francesco.

Bucchi has given some young players time to play but there is a difference between giving them a chance to play and nurturing their talent. For instance, the midfield trio of Francesco Cassata, Stefano Sensi, and Luca Mazzitelli are in their early 20s but they are not emerging as stars or finding consistency.

Unfortunately the Neroverdi have had to sell key players in recent years such as Croatian defender Sime Vrsaljko, French forward Gregoire Defrel, and Italian internationals Simone Zaza, Nicola Sansone, and Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to letting their coach depart for Roma.

Probably one of the most disappointing reasons for Sassuolo’s decline is that its talisman Domenico Berardi has not blossomed into the great player most people had expected him to be and has sadly shown signs of regression.

The 23-year-old has only scored one goal in eight Serie A matches this season and he scored just five times in the 2016/17 campaign. Injuries have not helped his cause either and it affected Sassuolo’s run in the Europa League last season.

Having such an important player like Berardi out of form is detrimental to a small team like Sasol and it could be the difference between avoiding relegation or dropping down to Serie B.

There are still some talented players in the Neroverdi squad such as goalkeeper Andrea Consigli, Italian international defenders Francesco Acerbi and Federico Peluso, winger Matteo Politano, and centre-forward Diego Falcinelli, who played a vital role in Crotone’s miraculous escape from relegation in 2016/17.

Bucchi is still finding his way in Serie A as a coach and it would be too premature to sack him at this stage of the campaign. Fortunately they face an AC Milan side in crisis and cellar-dwellers Benevento and Hellas Verona in the next three rounds so there is a chance to collect points in those games.

Di Francesco made a great impact at Sassuolo by getting it promoted from Serie B and eventually achieving qualification for Europe in 2015/16. It has been tough for Bucchi to follow in his footsteps so far but collecting a few points soon should bring confidence to the club hierarchy, the supporters, and the players themselves.

What Would AC Milan Look Like in a 4-2-3-1 Formation?

Under the coaching of Vincenzo Montella, AC Milan has struggled to consistently produces results and good performances as he has had to deal with an abundance of new acquisitions in the squad.

After losing 2-0 to Juventus on Saturday evening CET (Sunday morning AEDT), the Rossoneri now sit eighth in the Serie A table after 11 matches and they are currently nine points away from the UEFA Champions League spots.

Whether or not Montella gets sacked soon, one formation that could be trialled by Milan is the 4-2-3-1. I believe it would suit the players in the squad but the way the system is implemented would be crucial in making it successful.

No Bonucci in Defence

Picking Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal is a no-brainer but the selections in defence might surprise some people with Ignazio Abate, Mateo Musacchio, Alessio Romagnoli, and Ricardo Rodriguez starting in my team.

Abate makes the side due to his experience, speed, and time spent at the club while David Calabria would be used at right-back for Coppa Italia matches or against very weak opposition in the other competitions. Rodriguez would be my choice at left-back and he could also take free-kicks from long-range.

Musacchio would be paired with Romagnoli but he would need to cut down his forays forward. The former Villarreal defender can provide a link between defence and midfield but he does not need to run into the opposition’s penalty area on a regular basis.

This line-up does not include Milan captain Leonardo Bonucci because I do not believe that he should be the Diavolo captain and his form does not merit a place in the first team.

Although the former Juventus defender brings valuable experience, the Milan captain should not be one of the new arrivals and instead a player who is familiar with the club surroundings would be more ideal.

Without Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, Bonucci is now experiencing what it is like to play with different teammates in defence and also without two defenders that he had been accustomed to playing with for many years so adapting at Milan might take a while, if not at all.

Place Creative Midfielders in Suitable Roles

Montella has had plenty of trouble trying to accommodate as many attacking options as possible and with that he has altered his formations constantly as well as play certain players out of position. Using a 4-2-3-1 formation should play to the strengths of his midfielders and not weaken other parts of the field.

Franck Kessie would operate in his usual box-to-box midfielder role but Manuel Locatelli would be my regista instead of Lucas Biglia because the former Lazio playmaker is out of form.

Locatelli has the talent but he seems to lack confidence and that does not help in his development if his experienced teammates are not performing well either. I would tell to back himself and also try to dribble and shoot when the opportunities arise. If an experienced player like Biglia is not able to show leadership and efficiency, back Locatelli in and correct his mistakes as much as possible.

In the wide positions are Suso and Giacomo Bonaventura but their roles vary. The Spaniard plays like an attacking midfielder that starts on the wing than a modern right-winger that cuts-in with his left-foot while Bonaventura is a bit more direct and can also make late runs into the box.

Operating in the #10 role in my Milan XI is Hakan Calhanoglu, who has voiced a preference for playing behind a lone striker. Although he can play anywhere in the attacking midfield trio, his best form at club level was in the 2014/15 season with Bayer Leverkusen.

The Turkish international was used by Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt a central position in the 4-2-3-1 and he scored eight goals as well as provided seven assists in 33 German Bundesliga matches.

If the midfield needs a workhorse player in the wide positions, Fabio Borini has been one of the more solid performers in the current Milan side. The much-maligned forward has not provided much in terms of goals but he has provided assists and drops back to help the defenders.

Mobility Over Solidarity to Lead Attack

Nikola Kalinic and Patrick Cutrone play as traditional centre-forwards but a more mobile option like Andre Silva would suit a fluid team like this. Silva would link-up better with the midfielders and potentially drag opposition defenders out of position.

Kalinic has been disappointing since arriving at Milan and he looks very static. Cutrone is only 19 years old but he has scored more goals than the Croatian international and has an excellent work ethic. If the youngster can’t start, he is the type of player that could make an impact in the last 20-25 minutes of a game.

Fluidity and Flair Part of the Philosophy

This XI that I have created places an emphasis on fluidity as well as creative flair but the players would need to press a lot and also move the ball at a quick tempo. Under Montella, their possession play is languid and predictable and there is hardly any pressing when they lose the ball. Historically his teams play better with a back three than a back four.

It seems that AC Milan will stick with Montella for now as coach but a formation and style of play like this might work better than the insipid football the Rossoneri are producing now.

Hellas Verona v Benevento – A Serie A Clash that Might Surprise

On paper Hellas Verona v Benevento on Monday night CET (Tuesday morning AEDT) may seem like a boring game to watch but it might surprise a few people for a number of reasons.

Both teams were promoted from Serie B at the end of the 2016/17 campaign and have failed to win a match so far in Serie A this season. The Gialloblu are 18th with just three points in seven games while the Stregoni have failed to collect a point in their debut campaign.

If their performances in Round 7 were anything to go by, both signs have shown signs of improvement and surely a victory is due soon for one of these teams.

Hellas Verona was trailing 2-0 away to Torino and an injury to Granata star Andrea Belotti allowed the Gialloblu to come back and gain a 2-2 draw. Benevento lost 2-1 at home to Inter but it was a gallant defeat and the Campanian side showed that the Nerazzurri were vulnerable to counter-attacks.

Changes in tactics from both coaches resulted in the improvement in performances in the last round of Serie A.

Mastini tactician Fabio Pecchia has persisted with the 4-3-3 formation but using Romulo as a box-to-box midfielder and Daniel Bessa as a playmaker suits the characteristics of the players. Meanwhile, his Sanniti counterpart Marco Baroni switched from the 4-4-2 formation to the 4-3-3 and started Pietro Iemmello in attack while leaving Massimo Coda and George Puscas on the bench.

Most of the flair on display throughout the match should come from the wingers of both teams.

While Verona can count on the experienced Alessio Cerci and Roma-owned starlet Daniele Verde, Benevento has Cristiano Lombardi from Lazio and Marco D’Alessandro from Atalanta. The Gialloblu wingers are technically gifted albeit inconsistent wingers but they can be dangerous on their day whereas the opposing wingers in the Giallorossi squad are quicker and more direct.

If Baroni does not start with Lombardi and D’Alessandro, he could use Vittorio Parigini, who is on loan from Torino and has experience in the Italy U-21 side, or Amato Ciciretti could make his return to the team after being sidelined with injury.

The wingers will need to fire if the centre-forwards are going to get the service they need, with Pecchia needing to choose between the promising Moise Kean or veteran Giampaolo Pazzini while Baroni will probably persist with the aforementioned Iemmello.

Although the choices in forwards and wingers will be crucial, the midfielders for each will need to prove that they can cope with playing in Serie A. Bessa will need to dictate the play for Verona without the support of defensive midfielder Bruno Zuculini while Benevento duo Danilo Cataldi and Ledian Memushaj need to be effective offensively and defensively.

Defensively there has been improvement from Hellas Verona, especially from its often erratic goalkeeper Nicolas, whereas Benevento need to tighten up more, especially without captain Fabio Lucioni, who is serving a drug ban. The Stregoni can depend on Vid Belec between the posts but the defenders ahead of him must demonstrate the ability to close down gaps.

After a tough start to the season for both sides, this is a great chance for either team to collect a victory over a fellow struggler. Although these teams lack star names, there are certain elements in these squads that could make this Serie A clash more interesting than it seems.


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