10 Things In Italy: Lazio Wins Coppa & Belotti Stuns Sassuolo

Another seven interesting days have passed in the world of Italian football, so it’s time for this week’s edition of 10 Things to help you catch up with what has been happening in and around Serie A.

1. Lazio Win the Coppa Italia

Having reached four finals in the last six years, Lazio certainly knew what to expect when the Coppa Italia final got underway on Wednesday evening. Playing at their own Stadio Olimpico in Rome made that feeling of familiarity even greater, but perhaps so too did the fact they had played Atalanta less than two weeks ago. 

Kicking off in pouring rain, the game was thoroughly excellent, but it was clear very early on that Simone Inzaghi had arrived with a well-thought-out plan of how to get the better of their opponents. 

Outplayed and beaten 3-1 in that aforementioned encounter, they conceded possession to Gian Piero Gasperini’s men but as a result took away the advantages of Atalanta’s high press. 

It worked, and Lazio ran out 2-0 winners in a deserved victory, rewarded for their brave and intelligent approach, the coach making it clear afterwards just how much effort had gone into the result.

“We wanted this victory, this trophy, because we gave it our all and will now enjoy this night,” Inzaghi told RAI Sport, and — despite some poor refereeing decisions — they certainly deserve it. 

2. Atalanta Deserve Immense Respect  

They may have lost the cup final, but that should not detract from Atalanta’s incredible season. Not only did they progress to within 90 minutes of a wonderful Coppa Italia fairy-tale triumph, they are also in pole position to end the 2018-19 campaign in the Champions League places.

Sitting fourth in Serie A, they are just one point behind third-placed Inter and three ahead of the teams behind them. With just two games to go, they could achieve something truly remarkable, and it must be hoped they can refocus and secure the results they need to hold onto their current position.

3. AS Roma Return to Race for Fourth

Having started the season in terrible form, AS Roma have rediscovered something under Claudio Ranieri, the affable coach restoring some belief at his hometown club. He has also helped catapult them back into the race for a Champions League berth next term, a victory over Juve helping no end.

“We must keep believing that anything is possible. We know full well it doesn’t depend only on us, but we have to try our best,” he told reporters after the 2-0 victory. “I’m Roman, I know everything here, it is my home and I’ve travelled all over the world, but this is home. I always try to implement a feeling of mutual respect. We can joke and laugh around, but on the field we give our all.”

He has certainly done that, with another Rome native helping this weekend as Alessandro Florenzi scored his side’s second goal before unveiling an interesting celebration. “I want to say hello to my wife and daughter at home,” he told Roma TV. “I promised I’d do Spiderman and I finally managed it.”

4. An Ugly Night For Juventus

As if losing to Roma was not bad enough, Juventus did so wearing their new 2019-20 home kit from adidas, a shocking offering that has seen them abandon the famous black and white stripes.

Perhaps the only thing uglier than their shirts was the football on display. Poor performances have been a common theme from the Bianconeri this term, a matter discussed in this previous column and one which shows no signs of abating. For the Old Lady, this season cannot end soon enough.

5. Genoa Get Pulled Into Relegation Battle

It has not been a good season for Genoa. Serie A’s oldest club have managed just eight wins in 2018-19, their poor results seeing the Rossoblu cycle through managers at an alarming rate.

Davide Ballardini was replaced by Ivan Jurić in October, but by December another change was deemed necessary and Cesare Prandelli was brought in. The former Italy coach has done little to help, however, and last weekend’s loss to Atalanta sees them sitting just one point above the relegation places. 

Serie B is becoming a distinct possibility, with their performance leaving the boss stunned for words. "After a defeat there is little to say, we will talk about it on Monday,” Prandelli told Sky Italia. “The biggest concern is how quickly we let our belief fade away. You can have tactical ideas and prepare a game a certain way, but during the match situation you need the players to be clear-headed and calm.” 

6. Andrea Belotti Stuns Sassuolo

While Juve have won just once in their last five league games, their crosstown rivals Torino have been on fire. The Granata are on an eight-match unbeaten run with Andrea Belotti leading the charge for a European spot, the club captain scoring the goals that are keeping them in the race.

That includes the sensational overhead kick shown above from Sunday’s win over Sassuolo, a team who must loathe the sight of Belotti as he took his tally against them to seven in seven appearances. What a strike!

7. Domenico Berardi Finally Ready to Leave?

Having been unable to help his team versus Torino, Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi then spoke about finally being ready to leave the club where he has spent his entire career. Almost 25 years old, the forward has turned down at least two opportunities to join Juventus and one move to Inter, but now says he is no longer fearful of a Neroverdi exit.

“I wasn’t ready back then, so that is why I decided to remain and I don’t think I wasted that time,” Berardi told La Gazzetta dello Sport this weekend. “Now I feel at ease with myself, especially as I am more of a complete player and I’m no longer such a hothead. My first career objective was to complete the maturation process and I feel that I’ve done that with Sassuolo.” 

“I find it difficult to change, but it no longer frightens me. I would do it,” he continued. “The next objective is to play in Europe, but it’d have to be at a club where I know I’d be used regularly, if not all the time. That is my priority.

“If an offer were to come, whether it was from Milan or any other club, I’d evaluate it. If I feel that it is the right proposal, one I have to grab, then this time I’ll tell Sassuolo, ‘I’m taking that chance.’”

Having burst onto the scene with four goals in a 2014 game versus AC Milan, one has to wonder if this sudden onset of maturity has come too late?

8. Luciano Spalletti is (Rightly) Paranoid

For the past few weeks it has been rumored that Antonio Conte will take over at Inter this summer. Sky Italia’s Fabrizio Romano went so far as to report that the former Chelsea boss has already agreed terms on a four-year deal with the Nerazzurri, much to the chagrin of their current coach.

“For three months, the same things have been said, La Gazzetta dello Sport has written the same for three months,” Luciano Spalletti told reporters after Inter’s match with Chievo. “If someone says it’ll rain tomorrow every day, eventually it will probably rain!

“You keep asking me the same things every week and I don’t want to be rude by not responding. If La Gazzetta dello Sport have written the same thing for two years, and over the last three months it was every single day, then they must know something. 

“They are also pretty insulting, with headlines saying you’re spent, you’re empty, a flop, in the end that weighs on you, but it’s not about me, anyway, because this sort of rumor has been particularly strong around Inter for seven years.”

“It’s also nasty and offensive in its language and that is not the same way with other clubs,” he continued. “I don’t know if there are some sort of family and friendship issues here, but it is different with Inter.”

The paranoia might be well-placed, but it is not responsible for Spalletti’s bizarre touchline performance during the 2-0 win over Chievo (shown above) because — as any regular reader of this column is already well aware — he’s been acting that way all season!

9. Lecce Return to A

After a seven-year hiatus, Lecce are back in Serie A. The club from southern Italy have toiled in the lower leagues, suffering financial difficulties and a betting scandal that relegated them to the third tier.

However, they won a place in Serie B last term and have followed that up with another promotion after securing a runner-up spot this season, much to the delight of the club president. 

“Extraordinary emotions, nothing was handed to us, we have won everything ourselves against all odds,” Saverio Sticchi Damiani told reporters. “I was hoping for a quiet season, I never thought that in a league so full of big teams we could finish so high up the table. This was the best birthday of my life! We deserve promotion, we played a clean championship both on the field and in the running of the club.”

10. Alessandro Del Piero’s Footwork Remains Perfect

Alessandro Del Piero has been enjoying himself as a pundit on Sky Italia’s coverage of both Serie A and the Champions League, but the Juventus legend has opted for a complete change of scenery in recent weeks.

A guest appearance on “Ballando Con Le Stelle” — the Italian version of Dancing With The Stars — saw Del Piero wow the audience with his fancy footwork, just as he often did during his playing days.

Fiorentina's Annus Horribilis Could End In Relegation

As Serie A moves into its final round this weekend, there are few things still to be decided. Juventus won the title weeks ago, and Napoli have also comfortably secured their place in next season’s Champions League. Chievo Verona and Frosinone have long since been relegated, leaving just the third through sixth European places still to be decided as well as one team who will face the drop to Serie B. 

Audi Field To Host French Clubs For Next Three Years

D.C. United and  Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) announced on Monday morning that United's home, Audi Field, will host an upcoming tournament this summer, featuring four teams from France's Ligue 1. The event, sponsored by Electronic Arts (EA), will take place on July 18 and 21, with two teams on each day.

MLS Little Things: New England Approaches The Arena Era

We’re back with some more Little Things, this time featuring the Revolution, who are approaching the Bruce Arena era; Real Salt Lake, with explanations for their inconsistency; and plenty more:

Three Thoughts From D.C. United's Loss To The Houston Dynamo

Wayne Rooney's early second half goal seemed to put D.C. United on track for a seven-point week on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, but two goals in two minutes later in the half gave the hosts all three points. 

Alejandro Bedoya On What Went Wrong With USA & More

The Philadelphia Union have enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 Major League Soccer season, with the Chester outfit (at the time of writing) sitting second in the Eastern Conference. Captain Alejandro Bedoya has been crucial to their early success and so FloFC figured this would be a good time to catch up with the former Nantes and Rangers midfielder.

Houston Dynamo Fight Back To Defeat D.C. United 2-1

Despite taking a lead early in the second half, D.C. United's troubles in Houston continued on Saturday night, as the Houston Dynamo fought back for a 2-1 win at BBVA Compass Stadium. Wayne Rooney's goal 25 seconds into the second half was negated by two goals in two minutes from substitutes Memo Rodriguez and Tommy McNamara. Paul Arriola then got a red card late on, harming United's chances of grabbing a late equalizer.

D.C. United Out For Another Result On The Road Against Houston Dynamo

D.C. United are back at it on Saturday in part two of a three-game road trip following their midweek draw against Toronto FC. They face a stiff test against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium in a matchup of two of the league’s best teams this year. The action is set to kick off at 8:30 PM ET, and coverage starts on FloFC at 8 PM ET for DMV viewers.

Graham Smith Answers Sporting KC's Call

After spending most of the 2018 campaign with Sporting KC’s USL affiliate, the Swope Park Rangers, center back Graham Smith has started the last two games for Sporting KC as the club fights through a number of injuries. 

DCU Face Another Talented Attack After Defensive Masterclass In Toronto

Fresh off a scoreless draw in which D.C. United were able to fend off the third most shots in MLS history (35), Ben Olsen’s men head to the Lone Star State in search of another positive result against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. The Black-and-Red will face another stiff test at the back when they line up opposite of one of the league’s most electrifying attacks

Yoann Damet Brings A New Attitude To FC Cincinnati

A change of coaches brought about a much needed change in attitude for FC Cincinnati.