In an interview this week, AS Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo revealed he almost stopped playing football when he was released from the Fiorentina academy back in 2016. “I’ve never been considered someone who was destined to make it, especially in the youth sector,” he told DAZN. “I was always quite small physically and developed later than the other boys, so when Fiorentina told me that I couldn’t stay there anymore, I struggled to retain my enthusiasm for football.
“I went to Virtus Entella and found more space, along with people who believed in me. I remember sitting at a café with my Dad and crying, telling him that if I couldn’t get playing time there, I really would have to change sport or at least try to find a different profession.
“I thought maybe I just didn’t have what it takes. My father told me to give everything to the very last week, so I’d have no regrets. I did it and from then on, I never stopped playing.”
Serie A Match of the Weekend – Roma vs Juventus
Zaniolo will have an opportunity to prove his worth once again on Sunday, his AS Roma side welcoming Juventus to the Stadio Olimpico for the biggest clash of round 19. The Bianconeri will arrive in the capital in good spirits, smashing Cagliari 4-0 on Monday as Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed his first Serie A hat-trick.
Roma have been impressive too however, boasting a strong defence that has been led by Chris Smalling and he can expect his first meeting with the Old Lady to be an intense affair. Indeed, in the last six games between these two, there have been no fewer than 28 yellow cards and four reds, while the level of attacking talent means it will almost certainly be an entertaining game.
Best of the Rest
Ahead of that high stakes meeting between Serie A’s second and fourth-placed teams comes a fixture that could be even more fun as Atalanta visit Inter on Saturday. The visitors on the night will be no strangers to San Siro, using the famous old ground for their Champions League matches this term.
They have continued the excellent form that secured them a berth in that competition, scoring 48 goals in the league alone, eight more than any other side, but will be facing an Inter defence that has conceded just 15 times thus far in 2019/20. It promises to be a true clash of styles, with an added twist as Antonio Conte and Gian Piero Gasperini will both be coaching against a team they have led in the past.
Serie A Player to Watch: Andrea Belotti – Torino – £1.62
Having gone almost two months without a goal, Andrea Belotti returned to form on Sunday, his brace earning Torino a stunning 2-0 victory away at Roma. He delivered the kind of performance that previously saw him discussed as a potential target for some of Europe’s top clubs, and he will be looking to maintain that level as the Granata take on Bologna this weekend. “He has to play the way he does now, for the team, and that’s all he needs,” Toro boss Walter Mazzarri told DAZN this week. “He is a warrior, he’s generous, so when he plays with this freedom and determination, Belotti is carrying the flag and the rest follow!”