Serie A Preview: Match Day 18

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Never one to shy away from controversy, Mino Raiola has ushered in the New Year by insisting AC Milan supporters owe him an apology for the way he was insulted when he tried to move Gianluigi Donnarumma away from the Rossoneri back in 2018.

“The fans should apologise for Donnarumma: Mino, you were right,” the agent told La Repubblica. “I wanted to take him elsewhere because I didn’t trust that version of Milan, just like I didn’t trust [Erick] Thohir’s Inter. Tell me I wasn’t right about him!

“I may be politically incorrect and not much of a romantic, but my aim is to maximise the careers of my players. I always ask myself: ‘What would I do if he was my son?’ Money is only the last step.”

Serie A Match of the Round – Napoli vs Inter Milan

Due to January 6 being a public holiday in Italy it is a strange round of action, four games played on Sunday and the rest being moved to Monday as part of a long-standing tradition in Serie A. The pick of the round is unquestionably the final match as table-topping Inter journey south to take on Napoli, a side looking to rediscover their best form under new boss Gennaro Gattuso. 

Currently sitting eighth but having won their first game under the stewardship of the former Milan midfielder, Napoli know that beating the Nerazzurri would be a huge confidence booster and it would also make the title race even more interesting. 

Antonio Conte’s Inter head into 2020 in first place, but only on goal difference after being held to draws in two of their last three league games and they too will be eager to start the New Year with a positive performance. 

Best of the rest

Before those two go head-to-head, AC Milan will take on Sampdoria in a meeting that will be hugely important to both sides. The Rossoneri currently sit 11th in the table and, despite the arrival of Coach Stefano Pioli, have won just two of their last six league games and are desperately in need of both points and positive performances. 

For their opponents on Monday however, this is yet another crucial fixture as Claudio Ranieri looks to save them from relegation. The former Leicester City boss took control with the club rock bottom of the league, but he has pushed them up to 17th with some vastly improved displays and he will look to continue that at San Siro. 

Serie A Player to Watch: Chris Smalling – AS Roma – £0.62

Undoubtedly Serie A’s most impressive defender so far this season, Chris Smalling will need to be at his best once again as AS Roma welcome Torino to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening. 

Striker Andrea Belotti is a handful for anyone tasked with marking him, and Roma will need Smalling to marshal the Italy international if they are to improve their surprisingly poor record in annual debuts. 

Indeed, the Giallorossi have lost more games to start a calendar year than any other Serie A side (29) and they will be hoping to win this time round in order to keep their place in the top four.

 

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About Author

Chloe Beresford is a freelance Serie A writer who has been featured in Mundial magazine, Guardian Sport and in addition to Football Index, regularly contributes to The Sportsman, Tifo Football, Football Whispers and more. She supports Fiorentina and can often be found in the Curva Fiesole as well as attending as many other matches on the peninsula as possible.

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