Napoli flying the flag | Football Italia_5

  Gennaro Gattuso painted the Saturday night match as a test for the upcoming Champions League Round of 16, pointing to the similarities in playing style between Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo and Barcelona. It was a stretch, but had some truth to it, so we might see the Napoli offside trap play a crucial part at Camp Nou.

  This meeting between two of the Peninsula’s most exciting attacks was unlikely to skimp on emotion and chances at both ends. Despite the forecast for a high-scoring affair, the domestic fates of both clubs were already decided before kick-off, leaving little to play for at the San Paolo. Nevertheless, Napoli and Sassuolo fulfilled expectations in a pulsating encounter that demonstrated why the visitors have become Serie A’s Cinderella side, while an erratic home team can look forward to a bright future under Gattuso.

  Few expected these squads to be where they were heading into Saturday night’s match-up. Sassuolo had become accustomed to finishing in the bottom half of the table since their debut top-flight campaign in 2013-14, after the initial heights of a Europa League run under Eusebio Di Francesco had dissipated. Meanwhile, Napoli established themselves as a consistent challenger to Juve’s throne over the past few years.

  The Neroverdi’s unlikely rise is largely down to the brilliant work of Roberto De Zerbi, whose forward-thinking outlook has drawn the admiration of none other than Pep Guardiola. Even though Napoli came into Week 36 as close to 18th-placed Lecce as they were to the top of the table, Gattuso also deserves credit for turning around a club that was a shambles both on and off the field before he took over in December. Illustrious predecessors Carlo Ancelotti and Maurizio Sarri were unable to lift a major trophy with the Neapolitans, which Gattuso did at the first time of asking in the Coppa Italia Final against Juventus.

  That epic night against The Old Lady was a reminder of how an in-form Napoli can be a match for anyone in Europe. They were similarly inspired in the first half against the Neroverdi, breaking through the visitors’ midfield press to repeatedly threaten Andrea Consigli’s goal. By the break, the Partenopei deserved much more than their slender 1-0 lead.

  Yet, the second stanza confirmed that Napoli’s rehabilitation under Gattuso is far from complete. The crisp interchanges of the first 45 minutes were replaced by a laxness in possession that let Sassuolo grow into the game. Elseid Hysaj looked far less comfortable containing the lively Domenico Berardi than he did charging upfield from an unfamiliar left-back role. In midweek, VAR had condemned the hosts to a contentious defeat at Parma, with two questionable penalty decisions going against Gattuso’s men. Yet, the technology saved them here, ruling out no less than four Sassuolo goals for offside.

  Even in defeat, Sassuolo can take encouragement from their improved second half performance. Their thrilling eight-match unbeaten run after the lockdown will go down as one of the high points in a glorious recent history for the club. Napoli’s Serie A showings this season are unlikely to be remembered as fondly, but all will be forgiven if they can pair their Coppa triumph with a deep run in the Champions League.

  Gattuso has not cured Napoli’s Jekyll and Hyde tendencies, but the fight and organization they showed to manage the closing stages of Saturday’s triumph bodes well for the impending clash against Barcelona. Sassuolo’s transformation into one of Europe’s brightest attacking outfits would have seemed impossible just a few short years ago. A Napoli victory at the Camp Nou could be deemed similarly far-fetched, giving Gattuso the chance to end a tumultuous campaign in a blaze of glory.

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UEFA could move Barca

  UEFA has reportedly asked the Catalan Department of Health to provide adequate health guarantees for the Barcelona-Napoli match at Camp Nou.

  The match between Barcelona and Napoli could be moved away from Camp Nou due to the Covid-19 situation in Catalonia.

  ‘O Jogo claims both Porto and Guimaraes have made their stadiums available to host the two teams in Portugal, but the reports in Italy highlight that the Blaugrana push to play the game at Camp Nou.

  RAC-1 claims UEFA has asked for guarantees from the Spanish Department of Health, given the difficult situation in Catalonia due to the coronavirus outbreak.

  The return leg has been scheduled for Catalonia on August 8, but the report suggests the location could still change and a decision will be made by this weekend.

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Highlights: Cagliari 0

  Stefano Okaka took just over 60 seconds to get the decisive goal in Sardinia, as Udinese got the better of Cagliari.

  Fresh from a shock 2-1 win over Juventus, the Friulani were fired up and made an immediate impact at the Sardegna Arena.

  The hosts fought back in the second half with several chances, but Juan Musso was equal to them.

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  Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ante Rebic and Hakan Calhanoglu lead the way, as Milan welcome back Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer against Fabio Quagliarella’s Sampdoria.

  It kicks off at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa at 18.30 UK time (17.30 GMT).

  You can follow all the build-up and action as it happens from today’s EIGHT Serie A games on the LIVEBLOG.

  Milan are running out of time to catch Roma in that precious fifth place, which gives direct access to the Europa League group stage, as the gap now stands at four points.

  They were able to hold Atalanta to a draw at the weekend, despite being decimated by bans and injuries, but the good news for coach Stefano Pioli is that Theo Hernandez and Bennacer are available again after their suspension.

  Alessio Romagnoli, Andrea Conti and Mateo Musacchio are still out of action, so Matteo Gabbia again takes the centre-back role with Simon Kjaer.

  Alexis Saelemaekers is chosen rather than fit-again Samu Castillejo to complete the attack with Calhanoglu, Rebic and veteran hitman Ibrahimovic.

  Sampdoria had won four out of five games in July, but lost to both Genoa and Scudetto-winners Juventus last week.

  Morten Thorsby sits out a ban, with Albin Ekdal on the treatment table, but Gaston Ramirez and Bartosz Bereszynski make a recovery.

  Sampdoria: Falcone; Bereszynski, Yoshida, Colley, Augello; Depaoli, Linetty, Vieira, Jankto; Ramirez, Quagliarella

  Milan: G Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic

  Ref: Pasqua

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Gaich confirms CSKA move | Football Italia

  San Lorenzo striker Adolfo Gaich admits he is heading to CSKA Moscow, despite interest from Milan, Roma, Parma and Benfica.

  The 21-year-old centre-forward is expected to complete the transfer for €8.5m plus bonuses.

  “I am going to a great team, it is a good first step for my career to arrive in Russia and later move on to a more important European league,” Gaich told Radio La Red.

  He already has one senior cap for Argentina and scored five goals in 12 Superliga games for San Lorenzo this season.

  Among others, Gaich was also linked with Leeds United, Club Brugge and Benfica.

  In Serie A, Roma had shown interest for the longest time, followed by Milan and Parma.

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Line-ups: Bologna v Napoli

  Napoli look to Arkadiusz Milik and Chucky Lozano as they visit a Bologna side who completely revamp after Sinisa Mihajlovic’s furious response.

  It kicks off at the Stadio Dall’Ara at 18.30 UK time (17.30 GMT).

  You can follow all the build-up and action as it happens from today’s SEVEN Serie A games on the LIVEBLOG.

  Gennaro Gattuso’s Partenopei remain in the hunt for fifth place, but had a setback with their 2-2 draw against Milan at the weekend.

  There is some squad rotation, with Milik, Lozano and Matteo Politano completely transforming the front three, the Mexico international in particular given a very rare start.

  Diego Demme and Eljif Elmas also return in midfield, with Kalidou Koulibaly and Fabian Ruiz given a rest.

  Bologna somehow managed to draw 2-2 with Parma on Sunday, despite being 2-0 up at the 92nd minute.

  That total collapse in stoppages infuriated coach Mihajlovic, who responded by dropping Riccardo Orsolini after a very public dressing-down of his attitude.

  Mattia Bani and Jerdy Schouten are injured, while Andreas Skov Olsen is promoted to the starting XI with Rodrigo Palacio and on-form Musa Barrow.

  Bologna: Skorupski; Mbaye, Danilo, Tomiyasu, Krejci; Soriano, Medel, Dominguez; Skov Olsen, Palacio, Barrow

  Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Hysaj; Elmas, Demme, Zielinski; Politano, Milik, Lozano

  Ref: Piccinini

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Putting tips: Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau provide advice

DeChambeau gave a remarkable masterclass on the scientific approach he takes to putting during an extended putting session with David Livingstone ahead of the 2018 Players Championship, while Westwood shared the routine he goes through on the greens to better his chance of holing a putt.

Tim’s stay-at-home golf tips
Donald talked about the importance of solid contact when judging the speed and line of a putt, while further putting guidance from the likes of Matt Wallace and Francesco Molinari is available to watch on YouTube!

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