Serie A Preview: Match Day 21

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Asked about his first few months with AC Milan, striker Ante Rebic confessed that the club is very different to how he imagined but insists he wants to remain at San Siro and help the struggling Rossoneri climb the table. 

“The situation is certainly not what we expected before the season, but things are slowly improving with time,” the 26-year-old told Sportske Novosti. “The team are young and have quality, so it will take time before we’re at our best. We are working very well, I am optimistic. We have signed some experienced players with quality this winter and they can help us a lot.

“I made many sacrifices during my career to come to a club like Milan. I have achieved this goal and now I want to leave a mark here. I want to do something that I will be remembered for. I believe in myself and I know that I can be useful. I would definitely return to Frankfurt one day, but first I have a lot to do here.”

Serie A Match of the Round – AS Roma vs Lazio

There is certainly no fixture on the weekend calendar bigger than the Rome derby, both teams looking not only to clinch bragging rights in the Italian capital but also maintain their excellent recent form. 

AS Roma may have crashed out of the Coppa Italia in midweek, but they have been impressive in Serie A, sitting in fourth place and looking excellent as new boss Paulo Fonseca moulds the team into a much more vibrant, positive outfit. 

Yet they have undoubtedly been outshone in recent weeks by their crosstown rivals, Lazio reeling off a club record 11 consecutive league wins, a streak led by Ciro Immobile who has already scored a staggering 23 league goals in 2019/20. 

They too have been eliminated from the cup competition, but that should only increase their focus on the Serie A table where they sit third, seven points clear of Roma and only two behind Inter.

Simone Inzaghi’s men could insert themselves into the title picture if they win this weekend, and doing so at the expense of the Giallorossi would only serve to make that even sweeter. 

Best of the Rest

A few hours after that epic derby encounter, Napoli host Juventus in the repeat of a fixture that has been a title decider in recent years but one which this year finds the hosts in a very different position. 

Already on their second Coach of the campaign, the Partenopei go into this weekend sitting in the bottom half of the table, closer to the relegation places than a Champions League berth. Their have not improved since Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti on the bench, and with a loss to Fiorentina last week meaning they have won just one of their last 12 league games, key players have admitted they have no explanation for the side’s woes. 

“I can’t explain why we are having such difficulties in Serie A. We work so hard during the week to put what the coach asks into action,” Captain Lorenzo Insigne told RAI Sport. “We mustn’t let our heads drop and each of us has to give something more, because we cannot continue to be this low down the table.”

That will be no easy task as Juventus arrive after five consecutive wins in all competitions, a streak which includes two comfortable wins over Roma and the Bianconeri will be eager to maintain that pace by despatching Napoli here. 

Serie A Player to Watch: Erick Pulgar – Fiorentina – £1.60

The arrival of Beppe Iachini at Fiorentina has helped galvanise a team that looked lost under Vincenzo Montella, and while the new boss has mostly retained the same system as his predecessor, he has made a number of minor tactical adjustments. 

One of those has been to decide that Milan Badelj has hindered the form of Erick Pulgar, dropping the Croatian international to allow his team-mate to move into a more central role at the heart of midfield. 

From there, Pulgar has far more influence over Fiorentina’s attacking play, his probing passes helping spark a marked improvement for La Viola. It was an assist from the Chilean that led to the win over SPAL, while his all-around impact was crucial in last weekend’s victory over Napoli. 

A set piece specialist and the club’s designated penalty taker, look for Pulgar to continue to be a key man for Fiorentina throughout the rest of the season, starting with Saturday’s match against Genoa.

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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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