Soccer

5 Takeaways from Week 13 in Serie A

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Serie A Week 13: 5 Takeaways

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Two-time running Serie A champions Juventus sit atop the table following the first nine matches of Week 13, with unbeaten Roma still to entertain Cagliari at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday evening.

The Bianconeri climbed to the summit on the back of a 2-0 victory away to newly promoted Livorno, with summer acquisition strike duo Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez doing the business after a scoreless first half to see the Old Lady at least temporarily leap out in front of the Giallorossi.

Elsewhere, Sassuolo claimed a third win in six games to finally put some daylight between themselves and the relegation zone and Chievo claimed a crucial victory in the first Serie A Derby della Scala since 2002, while Sampdoria came within 60 seconds of providing Sinisa Mihajlovic with the most triumphant return to Marassi possible.

Mario Balotelli missed from the penalty spot for the second time in his career to see Milan’s crisis deepen as the Rossoneri have now gone five contests without claiming full points, and Napoli and Fiorentina each felt the icy sting of defeat at the hands of counter-attacking tactics in falling to Parma and Udinese respectively by matching 1-0 scorelines.

Torino soared at home opposite struggling former Cinderella side Catania on the wings of a man not named Alessio Cerci, and Inter were pegged back by a draw in Bologna as Juan Jesus’ scorching potential winner cracked off of the crossbar in time added on to deny the Nerazzurri level terms on points with Napoli in the table.

And so ahead of Roma’s crunch clash with Cagliari in the Italian capital to cap the round, here are five takeaways from the latest action in the peninsula’s top flight.

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5. Sassulo Has Learned to Compete

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Courtesy of the Official U.S. Sassuolo Facebook Page

The Neroverdi looked to be destined for one of the worst campaigns in Serie A history after dropping the first four games of the season to the tune of 16 goals conceded, but have recovered well to come away with points to show in seven of the last nine encounters.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s men followed up a 1-1 draw away to high-flying Roma before the international break with a 2-0 defeat of Atalanta in Reggio Emilia, continuing to demonstrate glimpses the required composure that comes with experience at the highest level to pair with the sprightliness of promising youngster Domenico Berardi.

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4. Udinese Still a Danger to the Top 5

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Courtesy of the Official Udinese Calcio Facebook Page

The Zebrette, annually a surprise package that manage to sneak into continental play against all odds, face the most competitive Serie A field in recent memory in the quest to continue upsetting the balance of power in Italy.

Yet, while Udinese may be closer to the drop zone than to the European places at this point, a narrow clean sheet victory over Fiorentina has proven that Francesco Guidolin’s charges are indeed still a threat to top clubs, especially at the fortress that is the Stadio Friuli.

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3. Experience the Key for Chievo

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Courtesy of the Official A.C. Chievo Verona Facebook Page

Hellas Verona goalkeeper Rafael remarked prior to Saturday’s Derby della Scala that Chievo was the favorite despite propping up the table as his side soared above in sixth place following promotion for this season.

The Mastini custodian’s contention turned out to quite accurate at his side’s expense, as the Flying Donkeys held out for the entirety of the contest against a starting 11 laden with young talent for Dejan Lazarevic to notch the winner with a rasping drive in the dying moments before the final whistle.

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2. Milan Victimize Themselves

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Rossoneri looked set to at last return to winning ways in what has been a rancid campaign to date when Kaka turned home inside the maiden five minutes against Genoa.

Yet the same old story ensued for the San Siro giants as the Grifone struck back via former Milan man Alberto Gilardino just moments later, and Massimiliano Allegri’s charges almost typically couldn’t find a second despite seeing 68 percent of the possession and taking 39 shots.

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1. Juventus Is Still the Team to Beat

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Roma grabbed all the headlines through the beginning of the term with a record-setting start under Rudi Garcia, leaving title holders Juventus with extra motivation to make a statement as to who is the top club in Italy at present.

The Bianconeri are at least temporarily back in a familiar first place prior to proceedings at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday, and have quite plainly sent a message out that any challengers wishing to knock the reigning champions off of the perch will have to take the fight for the Scudetto down to the wire come May.