Serie A: Five things we learnt this weekend

A look back at the weekend's action in Italy

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Life after Cuadrado isn’t so bad for Fiorentina

It was the Khouma Babacar and Mohamed Salah show on Saturday evening as Fiorentina comfortably defeated Sassuolo 3-1, inching closer to third-place Napoli.  Much was made of star winger Juan Cuadrado leaving the Viola, but Salah and Alessandro Diamanti have not taken long to pick up the slack. 

The Egyptian international opened the scoring in the 30th minute after a cheeky backheel ball set the 22-year-old free from the Neroverdi defence. Salah made no mistake in slotting it past goalkeeper. A clever pass to Babacar two minutes later doubled the lead.

The chemistry displayed between the two in such a short period of time has made Viola fans grin from ear-to-ear. Babacar closed off the match in the 62nd minute, his finish putting his side ahead 3-0.

Sassuolo would score a consolation goal in the 67th minute, a headed effort by Domenico Berardi. With Fiorentina now just four points back from Napoli, the race for third is still alive.

Napoli may be out of the race for second while Palermo aim for European places

It was only fitting for a club wearing pink to win on Valentine’s Day. But Palermo did more than that, they absolutely dazzled Napoli, winning 3-1. As is the case with most Palermo displays, Paulo Dybala and Franco Vasquez stole the show, contributing three assists and one goal between them.

Coach Giuseppe Iachini set out with a strong tactical plan to halt Napoli’s efforts, and it worked excellently.  The Partenopei arrived in this clash with an impressive six-match wining streak in all competitions but put in a rather stale performance.  Napoli looked disinterested and it was only until after the break that the away side played with heightened urgency. 

But by then it was too late as the Rosanero netted their third in the 65th minute. Manolo Gabbiadini would pull one back for Napoli in the 82nd minute, his third is as many games.

Palermo now find themselves in 8th on 33 points and dream of European football next season.

AC Milan continue to struggle

Despite Milan’s proactive January transfer window, the club have failed to establish a rhythm, garnering just five points in the seven rounds played so far in 2015. Empoli controlled possession for large stretches, threatening just under 10 minutes with efforts from Manuel Pucciarelli and Mario Rui.

But it was the new Rossoneri signing, Mattia Destro, who brought the home side ahead just five minutes before the break. The away side equalised in the 68th minute and looked the more dangerous side to win the match after Milan backed off. Coach Filippo Inzaghi included three new signings this match but it wasn’t enough to defeat the giant-killers in Empoli.

A new mentality is definitely needed at the club to get them out of their slump and back to winning ways.

Inter continue to climb the table and gain confidence

With two consecutive wins, Roberto Mancini’s Inter have risen from 13th to 10th and now sit on 32 points. Their recent performances have been convincing, a 3-0 home victory over Palermo and yesterday’s 4-1 win away to Atalanta. It’s just the first time under Mancini that the Nerazzurri have won two on the trot in all competitions.

Inter’s play has improved partly due to Fredy Guarin rediscovering his form; he netted a brace against Atalanta. The Colombian has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but hasn’t proved to be consistent. It seems now Mancini has given him the necessary confidence to shine.

It must be noted that new signings in Xherdan Shaqiri and Marcelo Brozovic have also injected new life into the struggling club. All in all, Inter will look to carry this form into their Europa League tie against Celtic this week.

Cesena not going down without a fight

Following a week which saw attacks directed at Italy’s smallest clubs, Cesena stood their ground and delivered an impressive performance against champions Juventus.  The Stadio Dino Manuzzi was rocking during the entire match for the Cavallucci Marini’s 2-2 draw against the Bianconeri, a clash that saw the home side unsettle Juventus throughout.

Cesena could’ve tallied a few goals before Milan Djuric opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Goals from Alvaro Morata and Claudio Marchisio would bring Juve ahead later in the half. But it was Franco Brienza who had the last word and brought the home side level in the 70th minute with a great strike. 

All credit has to be given to Cesena who played their hearts out and probably deserved more than a draw. Despite the hard-earned point, the Romagna outfit are in 19th place and are likely to be relegated.