After much movement, much speculation, and lots of ups and downs, the top of the Serie A table changed little from the positioning entering the weekend.
Juventus topped Sassuolo 3-0 to restore its 11-point lead at the top of the table, while AC Milan took care of Cagliari 3-0 to move back into fourth place after falling as far as seventh due to other results.
The Old Lady maintained its iron grip over Serie A with a dominant win, grabbing goals from Sami Khedira, Emre Can, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo. While Sassuolo managed to grab 50% possession in the match, they could only muster two shots on target, including none in the final hour of the game.
Ronaldo created the opener 23 minutes in as he worked space near the penalty spot and unleashed a ripper, and while that was saved well by Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli, Khedira was there to tap in the rebound at the far post. Ronaldo got his goal on a powerful header in the 70th minute to put the game away, and Can added the cherry on top with four minutes remaining, finding the far post with a low effort from a tight angle. Ronaldo also failed to get through the 90 minutes without a blooper, as he inexplicably rifled a powerful rip straight into Khedira’s face at the top of the box despite his teammate standing almost right next to him.
Milan, meanwhile, picked up a critical result in a match marred by protests. Cagliari struggled to leave its training ground earlier in the weekend as local farmers protested plunging dairy prices, hoping to stop Cagliari from making the trip to the San Siro, wanting the club to use their high profile to make a statement. The team eventually traveled, but ran into a buzzsaw.
Suso was responsible for creating the opener, as his left-footed curler was saved by Alessio Cragno, only for the rebound to ping directly off Cagliari defender Luca Ceppitelli and into the back of the net. 21-year-old Lucas Paqueta doubled the Milan lead in the 22nd minute on a cross from Davide Calabria that found Pacqueta charging to meet at the back post, scoring his first Serie A goal after joining in early January. Krzysztof Piatek made it 3-0 with 20 minutes to go on a scrappy goal that he poked through the legs of Nicoló Barella with Cragno way out of net.
While it appears the top two places in the table have been all but locked up with Juventus on 63 points and Napoli on 52, the final two Champions League spots in the Serie A table are being fought for tooth and nail. Inter, who beat Parma 1-0 on Saturday, sits third with 43 points, while AC Milan moves back into the final position with 39.
Below Milan sits Atalanta, Roma, and Lazio all on 38 points, with Torino at 34, Sampdoria at 33, and Fiorentina at 32.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Atalanta also picked up a 2-1 win over SPAL on a 79th goal from white-hot Duvan Zapata, who grabbed his 15th goal in his last 10 Serie A games. He picked up the winner on the break, with Hans Hateboer providing the fast-break delivery from the right after being sprung through by a wonderful chip from Marten De Roon.
Torino defeated Udinese 1-0 at home to stay in the hunt, with the lone strike coming from former Chelsea youth product Ola Aina just past the half-hour mark on a header, finishing a cross from Cristian Ansaldi after spectacular one-on-one work on the left flank. Torino shot-stopper Salvatore Sirigu also saved his fifth-straight penalty, off the foot of Rodrigo de Paul.
Bologna and Genoa drew 1-1 on a pair of first-half goals by Mattia Destro and Lukas Lerager that cancelled out. The teams combined for 25 shots, including eight on target, but the second half was a dud as Bologna pulled out of the relegation zone but only on goal differential.
Stefano Okaka’s 74th minute goal looked to give Watford a surprising draw at much-changed Chelsea on Monday at Stamford Bridge.
But Cesc Fabregas found an 88th minute moment of class to give the Premier League champions a record-tying 29th win of the season in a 4-3 win. A win over Sunderland this weekend would set a new PL standard.
According to the Telegraph, the Blues are set to offer a club-record of over $78 million for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly in an attempt to sure up the backline.
Conte has always preferred to play a somewhat unconventional back three, and the addition of Koulibaly could allow the Italian to get his wish.
The addition of the Senegalese international will create more competition on the Chelsea defensive end, with captain John Terry still holding down a starting role and Gary Cahill working on retain a position of his own after an unstable performance at EURO 2016.
Kurt Zouma is also on his way back into the fold after suffering a major injury last season, and figures to be in the mix for a starting XI spot when healthy given his undoubted talent.
At the very least though, Conte will now have options centrally on the backline, although outside could still be a bit of a concern with only Ola Aina sitting behind Branislav Ivanovic and Cezar Azpilicueta in the pecking order.