Preview: Sassuolo vs. Spezia
A resurgent Sassuolo host a Spezia side scrapping against relegation in Serie A on Friday evening.
Both clubs kick off the weekend of top-flight football in Italy riding high off the back of victories over Champions League-chasing opposition, with Sassuolo edging Roma in a bonkers Sunday night thriller while Spezia defeated Inter last Friday.
Roma had conceded five league goals at home all season before Sassuolo arrived at the Stadio Olimpico and emerged with four goals and three points from a breathless 4-3 thriller last weekend.
Jose Mourinho’s capital outfit are not the only lofty name to fall against Sassuolo this calendar year; Alessio Dionisi’s side kickstarted their recent glut of good form by romping to a 5-2 victory at Milan’s San Siro in January.
Since that statement triumph, Sassuolo have collected 16 points from their last seven league games – only Napoli can better that tally, but not even the runaway league leaders can match Sassuolo’s haul of 16 goals in the same time frame.
The Neroverdi have had to discover a prolific edge given the dreadful season Andrea Consigli is enduring between the sticks; the veteran goalkeeper is recording the lowest save percentage in the whole of Serie A, conceding two out of every five shots which fly his way.
Despite the recent uptick in form, Sassuolo remain firmly ensconced in mid-table, nine points adrift of the European spots but with a double-digit gap to the relegation zone.
Spezia, by contrast, do not have much of a cushion above the dotted line, sitting in 17th, five points above Hellas Verona in the drop zone.
Serie A endured a sparse January transfer window, but Spezia were the second-biggest spenders as they tried to address their precarious positioning with a €7.7m (£6.8m) outlay on 11 players – however, this expenditure was financed by the loss of starting centre-back Jakub Kiwior to Arsenal for €25m (£21.9m).
Luca Gotti was manager during the winter outlay, but the club turned to Leonardo Semplici in February; the former SPAL boss has only taken charge of three matches but is yet to lose, taking five points since his appointment.
Semplici credits a team meal he organised shortly after his arrival with the strong bond forged between the coach and his new squad; the detailed knowledge of his players was evident when Semplici changed formation and personnel at half time to inspire Spezia to the club’s first-ever victory against Inter last Friday.
Daniel Maldini was one of the half-time changes Semplici deployed against the Nerazzurri when switching from a 3-5-2 to a back four, with the 21-year-old coming off the bench to score 19 years after his father – the Milan icon Paolo Maldini – last found the net against Inter.
Sassuolo Serie A form:
Spezia Serie A form:
We say: Sassuolo 3-1 Spezia
If Sassuolo continue to play with the verve and swagger which has defined their recent fixtures, then Spezia are likely to suffer the same, goal-laden fate as Milan, Roma and several other clubs in the future.