04.04.2015 13:29 - in: Serie A S

      Key Azzurri men to watch out for

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      Juventus.com profiles starlet Daniele Rugani, midfield metronome Mirko Valdifori and evergreen forward Massimo Maccarone

      Empoli have enjoyed a steady return back to the top flight since finishing as Serie B runners-up last time out.

      Managed by shrewd tactician Maurizio Sarri, the Azzurri currently lie 13th in the standings and hold a healthy 12-point margin above the dreaded drop zone.

      The Tuscany-based outfit, who are renowned for their ability to nurture outstanding young talent, also possess plenty of talented personnel in every department.

      Ahead of Saturday evening’s meeting at Juventus Stadium, Juventus.com profiles the main Azzurri men to watch out for: starlet Daniele Rugani, midfield metronome Mirko Valdifiori and evergreen forward Massimo Maccarone. 

      Name: Daniele Rugani
      Age: 20
      Position: Central defender

      Juventus-owned Daniele Rugani continues to rack up the plaudits for his fine performances at the heart of the Empoli backline which belie his tender age.

      The 20-year-old, who recently had the remaining 50% of his contract bought out by the Bianconeri, has been tipped for greatness and has the world firmly at his feet.

      An Azzurri youth graduate, the tough-tackling defensive stopper is very strong in the air and rarely has lapses in concentration.

      One for fantasy football fanatics, Rugani has featured in every single minute of Empoli’s 28 Serie A games this term and is yet to receive a yellow card.

      Name: Mirko Valdifiori
      Age: 28
      Position: Defensive midfielder

      Deep-lying playmaker Mirko Valdifiori keeps things ticking at the heart of the Empoli midfield.

      The 28-year-old, who joined the club from Cesena back in 2008, controls the flow of the Tuscans’ forward play and is blessed with excellent vision.

      A set-piece specialist, Valdifiori also tops the Serie A leaderboard for amount of passes made (2044) and goalscoring chances created (67).

      His cracking displays this season have not gone unnoticed and the midfielder was recently handed his international debut during Italy’s 1-1 friendly draw with England at Juventus Stadium earlier this week.

      Name: Massimo Maccarone
      Age: 35
      Position: Forward

      Veteran Massimo Maccarone is now in his second spell with Empoli having made headlines at the club in March 2002 when he became the first Serie B player in 20 years to be picked for the Italian national side.

      The 35-year-old spent five seasons with Middlesbrough in the Premier League, winning the League Cup in the process, and also scored two last minute winners during the club’s 2006 UEFA Cup final run.

      Despite having failed to ripple the back of the net since February, Maccarone is the Tuscans’ top scorer with seven goals and has hit strikes versus Serie A giants Roma and Milan earlier on this year.

      The forward is also very unselfish, having provided five assists for his team-mates in 21 appearances this term.

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