Firing the coach pays dividends for Italian pair
MILAN – Reuters
Having lost its unbeaten record and Serie A leadership in defeat to Udinese last week, Inter Milan must face another team that is enjoying a new lease of life after changing coach when it visits Sassuolo on Dec. 23.
Inter will have further reason to be wary of Sassuolo, the team from the smallest town ever to be represented in Serie A – it has lost four of its last eight meetings against the opponent.
Udinese and Sassuolo both made poor starts to the season and opted for the time-honored solution of firing their coaches in order to turn their respective campaigns around.
Proud owner of one of the most modern stadiums in Serie A, Udinese gave Luigi Delneri his marching orders in mid-November after losing eight of its first 12 games and brought in the relatively inexperienced Massimo Oddo.
Although Oddo’s only previous stint in Serie A ended abruptly when he was fired by Pescara in February with his side bottom of the table, he has transformed Udinese by making the most of his team’s physical strength.
The team has responded by winning three of its four games under him, capping its run with a 3-1 win at Inter last weekend when it gave a lesson in quick counter-attacking.
“I’ve always said that the coach has to find the team for his players, not the other way round,” said Oddo, 41.
“This team is very different team from the one I had at Pescara with different characteristics. There is a great deal of power, physical presence and stamina, so I try to make the most of that.”
Udinese hosts Verona on Dec. 23 although Oddo warned against getting carried away. “We are getting great results but the worst thing we can do now is to start dreaming,” he said.
Sassuolo, meanwhile, has won two out of three league games since swapping Cristian Bucchi for the wily and much-traveled Giuseppe Iachini, who is at his 11th Italian club but has yet to coach any of the top teams.
It won 1-0 at sixth-placed Sampdoria on Dec. 17 despite missing the fifth penalty of seven it has been awarded this season.
“We’ve only been together for three weeks,” said Iachini. “I’m convinced that if we continue to work like this, with this intensity in both attack and defense, we can make further progress.
“Everyone has shown great willingness and we’re improving but I know we can do better. We haven’t been so good with our final passes.”
Sassuolo made its top flight debut in the 2013/14 season and was thumped 7-0 at home in its first meeting with Inter. But in seven meetings since then, Inter has won only three to Sassuolo’s four.
Inter, which went through its first 16 games unbeaten, is third with 40 points, two behind leader Napoli, which hosts Sampdoria. Titleholder Juventus, which hosts fourth-placed Roma on Dec. 23, is second with 41 points.