Matchday thirty-five has the potential to be special. AC Milan could secure their European destiny with a win against U.S. Sassuolo Calcio. While firmly a mid-table side, the team from outside of Modena is incredibly dangerous. They have been an absolute offensive force since the restart, but the defense has been questionable at best. Sassuolo has a grouping of high-quality players and that is the most crucial aspect of the team.
This article will again use Football Slices. I am again linking their glossary here.
Typical U.S. Sassuolo Calcio Formation and Tactcis
This section will be short because of how important some of the individuals are for Sassuolo. Roberto De Zerbi lines his players up in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. Francesco Magnanelli and Mehdi Bourabia have been rotating as the main defensive midfielders. Manuel Locatelli plays as the key passing and progressive player next to the more defensive midfielder. In attack, the wingers have almost entire freedom to do as they please. They can invert or stay wide depending on how they interpret the space in front of them. Jérémie Boga has the least restrictions on the team, and Domenico Berardi is more of a space interpreter. These players all look to support Francesco Caputo. He is a pure ‘fox-in-the-box’ style player. Sassuolo blends this all into a chaotic, yet potent attack.
Defensively, Sassuolo is a mess. The typical center back starting duo, Vlad Chiricheș and Gian Marco Ferrari, have been a chaotic combination. Marlon Santos (who is actually good) and Federico Peluso (also chaotic) have seen time starting. Sassuolo does not have a main defensive strategy other than to try and hold on. Sometimes it works, usually, it does not.
The Key Players for Sassuolo
There are four crucial players for Sassuolo.
The key man is Manuel Locatelli. He is their creative force. Without him, Sasusolo struggles to connect their defense to their offense. He posses the ability to pick apart an opposing side. He has been one of the best midfielders in the top five leagues. It is imperative that Milan marks him out of the game. If he has the freedom to spray passes into the box, Milan will struggle to keep a clean sheet (he has 5 assists this season). If you follow the Azzuri, you should be screaming for him to be in the running to start during the Euros in 2021.
Another highly underappreciated Italian player, Domenico Berardi. Again, he is a player that has the ability to absolutely expose an opposing team’s defense. His initial seasons in Italy were explosive and he made a name for himself quickly. With some injury-plagued seasons behind him, the Italian winger has put together one of his most dominating seasons. He has 13 goals and 7 assists this season. Do not underestimate him. Berardi is a player that should be in the squad for Italy in the Euros. He thoroughly deserves to.
The last overlooked Italian player, Francesco Caputo. I would say a fair comparable player to him this season is Edin Džeko (Caputo has a much better shot map). Currently, I would pick Caputo over the Bosnian striker. In his last two seasons in Serie A, Caputo has 34 goals and 10 assists (18 goals and 7 assists this season). While he can get isolated from the rest of his team, the Italian striker is still incredibly dangerous. Again, do not underestimate him.
Finally, Jérémie Boga. The French-Ivorian winger has a knack for flashy goals and beautifully curling shots (he plays for Côte d’Ivoire Internationally). Last season, Boga seemed to be a dribbling fanatic, however, this season he has added the ability to create shots for others. He has wildly outshot his xG this season. This has happened because of the shape he is able to put onto shots. His mixture of curve and pace on every shot makes it incredibly difficult for goalkeepers to keep him from scoring. He currently has 11 goals and 2 assists in Serie A this season. While the dribbling has been flashy for his entire Serie A tenure, he has noticeably grown into a more impactful player. Again, he is very dangerous.
Overall Thoughts On The Match
If Sassuolo could play any amount of defense, then they could easily be in the Europa League race. However, their frailties at the back have really disrupted their European hopes. Locatelli, Caputo, Berardi, and Boga are all players who I believe should be playing for a team higher up in the Serie A table. This quartet has 63 combined goals and assists contributions, 42 of which are goals. That is the same amount of goals as Hellas Verona F.C this season. Whenever they play, goals come fast and intensely. Their matches have averaged 4.5 goals since the return. Sassuolo has three different three-all ties in their last nine games. That is chaos. Whatever happens against Sassuolo, it is almost certain that the game will be completely outrageous. In a few words, I am excited.
Also, for more Manuel Locatelli things, I wrote an article for Scouted Football about the player. If you would like to read it, I will include a link here. I expect him to go to Juventus FC next season and for him to start. Everyone will see his unbelievable talent next season. Personally, I want Milan to buy him back.