10 Things In Italy: Juventus Miracle, Ranieri's Return, & AC Milan

Every week, FloFC’s 10 Things gives you a chance to get you caught up with what’s been going on in the world of Italian football over the past seven days. Here’s the latest edition!

1. Juventus Complete Mission: Impossible

Scoring three goals without reply against Atletico Madrid is something that should be impossible, but Cristiano Ronaldo has made a career out of turning dreams into reality. He did so once again on Tuesday evening, tormenting his old rivals and ensuring Juventus qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League. 

Yet there was so much more to this game, the Bianconeri turning in a complete team performance that was discussed at length in this previous column. It was a night those in attendance will never forget!

2. Ranieri’s Roman Return

Already under immense pressure, losing the Rome derby and then being eliminated from the Champions League within the space of a few days was always going to spell doom for Eusebio Di Francesco. The coach was guilty of many errors, but while his team selection and substitutions were almost inexplicable, he was also hindered by poor work from those above him, too.

As a result, it was no surprise that just hours after A.S. Roma announced they had parted ways with Di Francesco, sporting director Monchi followed him through the exit door. A project that started with so much hope ended with both men’s reputations taking a huge blow, followed quickly by the arrival of Claudio Ranieri. \

A native of the Italian capital and a lifelong fan of the Giallorossi, Ranieri’s honesty and humility will once again make him a beloved figure, as will the fact he registered a win over Empoli in his first game at the helm. 

3. Carlo Ancelotti’s Priorities

As Napoli went into Sunday evening’s clash with Sassuolo, the league table did not make comfortable viewing. Two days earlier, Juventus had demolished Udinese in Turin and in doing so moved an incredible 19 points clear of their closest rivals, an eighth-consecutive Scudetto now all but assured. 

Carlo Ancelotti might be unable to prevent his eyebrow from raising, but he is certainly capable of avoiding the mistakes of his predecessor Maurizio Sarri. Where the current Chelsea boss continually failed to maximize the depth of his squad, his replacement has no such restraint, no fewer than 21 players having started at least five Serie A starts.

With the Partenopei advancing in the Europa League and Juve holding that unassailable lead, the coach again rested key men against Sassuolo, but a 1-1 draw there will be meaningless if he then plots a way past RB Salzburg. Lifting the trophy is now a very realistic aim and it would be a huge accomplishment for both Ancelotti and Napoli if they succeed. 

4. An Unlikely Slap

Gian Piero Gasperini has won many admirers in recent years, his young Atalanta side impressing neutrals around the world with their up-tempo style. However, when things weren’t going his way this past weekend, the 61-year-old coach completely lost his temper and that may well sour those opinions.

A second-half penalty decision against his team prompted an angry outburst from the Atalanta boss, who was subsequently sent to the stands for foul and abusive language towards the match officials. But clearly still irate as he made his way to the tunnel, Gasperini shoved Sampdoria secretary general Massimo Ienca over but then downplayed the incident as he spoke to Sky Italia shortly after the final whistle.

“He was somewhere he shouldn't have been and obstructing the exit,” claimed Gasperini. “So I slightly nudged him aside and then he made a big song and dance about it. He does that sometimes.”

Unsurprisingly, Sampdoria had a different view. “I’m sorry that a coach like Gasperini could have given such an unsporting reaction,” Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero told reporters. “When he was sent off he had to leave the field, not attack one of our directors: Gasperini was wrong.”

5. The (Bald) Eagle Has Landed!

Roberto Mancini appointed a new assistant this week, the Italy national team boss calling on old friend Attilio Lombardo to work with him once again. The pair helped Sampdoria win the Serie A title during their playing days, then went on to reunite on the sidelines at Manchester City and Galatasaray. 

Really it was just an excuse to share this glorious photo of the pair together during their ’Doria days, but Lombardo will be a welcome addition to the Azzurri staff during the upcoming international break.

6. Gregoire Defrel’s Driving

Sampdoria striker Gregoire Defrel was involved in a serious incident this past weekend, with an early report from Gianluca Di Marzio insisting he was chased by police on Sunday evening before crashing his car.

The club moved quickly to dismiss that story however, publishing a statement on their official website which read: “With regards to what happened at night concerning Gregoire Defrel, the Sampdoria board verified with police headquarters in Genoa that there was no car chase.

“The police intervened following a road accident on Corso Europa, therefore the Municipal Police also took action. Defrel didn’t try to get away from any checkpoint. He collaborated and showed willingness to discuss the incident. Any further reconstruction of the facts, therefore, is considered devoid of any substance.”

Yet it is believed that the Frenchman was found to be over the drink-drive limit after the level of alcohol in his blood was tested, with Genoa-based newspaper Il Secolo XIX reporting that the 27-year-old will be handed a “heavy” fine and risks his loan from Roma being terminated.

7. Lucas Biglia Steals The Show… Almost

Now the leading scorer for both Genoa and A.C. Milan, it is only right that Krzysztof Piątek and his goals have overshadowed almost everything else at San Siro and Marassi this season. 

However, for almost 30 minutes on Saturday evening, the Rossoneri had a different hero to worship after Lucas Biglia delivered the sublime free kick shown below to hand his side the lead over rock bottom Chievo. 

Of course, Milan then somehow allowed their opponents back into the game as Perparim Hetemaj found an equalizer, setting the stage for who else but Piątek to grab the winning goal and once again ensure his was the name on everyone’s lips. 

8. Milan Badelj Returns To Florence

There have been many touching tributes to the one-year anniversary of Davide Astori’s death, with our own resident Fiorentina fan doing just that in this emotion-laden column from last week. 

But few were as connected to the man himself as Milan Badelj, stepping in as Viola captain last March only to move on to Lazio when the summer transfer window opened. Sunday marked his first visit to the Stadio Artemio Franchi since that exit and, after swapping shirts with a Fiorentina player, he went under the Curva Fiesole to share a poignant moment with the Tuscan fans.

9. Inter’s Problems Pile Up

As if being besieged by Wanda Nara and Mauro Icardi’s drama, Luciano Spalletti’s woeful coaching and crippling UEFA sanctions was not bad enough, even a win over SPAL saw Inter’s problems multiply.

Eventually running out 2-0 winners at San Siro, the Nerazzurri seem set to be without Marcelo Brozovic and Joao Miranda after they picked up injuries, the latter suffering a broken nose after a clash with Andrea Petagna. 

It was the last thing they needed given the fact their Captain is still sidelined with an “ankle issue” suffered at the exact moment he was stripped of the armband, while Roberto Gagliardini, Joao Mario and Dalbert are all ineligible for Europe in order to comply with UEFA’s FFP regulations. It never rains...

10. The (Juve) Kids Are Alright

While the Champions League exploits of Ronaldo, Federico Bernardeschi and Emre Can rightly received recognition—including in this previous column—last Friday’s game with Udinese shone a spotlight on some up-and-coming Juventus talent. 

Foremost among them was Moise Kean, the 19-year-old striker netting with his first touch before adding an excellent second goal for good measure. He was joined by Hans Nicolussi Caviglia, a midfielder who is one year younger but who also graduated through the club’s youth academy. The future is bright!

Adam Digby is an Italian football writer for FourFourTwo, The Independent, and elsewhere. Author of "Juventus: A History In Black & White." Follow Adam on Twitter.

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