Juventus
    09.09.2016 17:30 - in: Serie A S

    Sassuolo under the spotlight

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    Juventus.com runs the rule over Sassuolo’s start to the 2016/17 season ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Turin
    Summer comings and goings

    A club that has prided itself on and profited from stability and sound management in recent years, Sassuolo did not make too many major changes to the squad that helped them finish in sixth place last season, although they did bid farewell to two of their top performers of the past 12 months.

    With Croatian international right-back Sime Vrsaljko and German-born winger Nicola Sansone making moves to Atletico Madrid and Villareal respectively, manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have been looking at how best to cope with their absences.

    Replacing the effervescent Sansone on the left side of Di Francesco’s famed three-pronged attack is Matteo Politano, whose loan deal from Roma was made permanent in the summer. The 23-year-old made 28 appearances in Serie A for the Neroverdi in 2015/16, scoring five goals and providing two assists in the process.

    Matteo Politano
    Marcello Gazzola

    On the right side of defence, Marcello Gazzola, a key member of the side which helped Sassuolo gain promotion from Serie B in 2013 and make a habit of top-tier survival thereafter, has started every game so far this term. Pol Lirola has joined on loan from Juventus to provide back-up to Gazzola in that position.

    Meanwhile, Di Francesco has also brought in former Juve man Alessandro Matri to bolster the team’s forwards options, with Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Duncan making a permanent move from Sampdoria following a fruitful loan spell in Reggio Emilia last season, in which he established himself as a regular fixture in the middle of the park, breaking up the play whilst maintaining an eye for an assist – he now has six to his name, including the start of the current campaign.

    Alessandro Matri
    Alfred Duncan
    Early season exploits

    Sassuolo’s involvement in this year’s Europa League meant that their 2016/17 season started on 28 July with a 3rd round 1st leg qualifier away to FC Luzern. Having overcome the Swiss outfit 4-1 on aggregate, they would also knock out Red Star Belgrade by the same scoreline, securing 3-0 home wins against both opponents in the process.

    Their form so far in Serie A would have been equally as impressive had they not been handed a 3-0 home defeat by the league authorities for fielding an ineligible player against Pescara (the Neroverdi had been destined to seal a 2-1 victory).

    That result, following their opening day victory away to Palermo, saw Sassuolo fall just one short of their record for consecutive top-tier wins (six) registered between May and August 2015.

    Berardi absent vs Bianconeri

    Perennially a key performer for the club he has represented since youth level, Domenico Berardi looks determined to post his best figures yet this term.

    The right-sided forward has made a flying start to the 2016/17 season with seven goals in six matches between Serie A and Europa League.

    However, the 22-year-old talent will miss Saturday's outing against Juventus through injury, thus depriving the Neroverdi of their top scorer and primary attacking threat in Turin.

    The Bianconeri's rearguard, however, will need to watch out for Gregoire Defrel on the evening. The towering French centre-forward has netted three times so far this season in all competitions.

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