Having reached the half-way point of the Serie A campaign, Dave Taylor goes 3-4-3 with his best XI of the season so far.
Mattia Perin [Genoa]
Certainly does not have the strongest defence in front of him and is consequently tested for whole games, but the one-man wall still pulls off save after save. Still young and his potential to become a fabulous shot-stopper was shown when he became only the second ’keeper to stop a Mario Balotelli penalty. He also pulled off arguably one of the saves of the season when he finger-tipped Davide Moscardelli’s murderous volley from out under the crossbar in Week 17’s 1-0 loss to Bologna. Spensley-like.
Alessandro Lucarelli [Parma]
The veteran defender has been utterly consistent and played in all but one match. Never one to give an inch on the ground he is also a constant winner in the air. With his undoubted experience he reads the game well and leads from the back. A particular danger at set pieces, all three of his goals have come from corners this campaign, with his superb Zola-like back heel flick at the edge of the six-yard box in Week 18 the pick. Fabio Cannavaro-like.
Mehdi Benatia [Roma]
The Moroccan has played an absolutely crucial part of Roma remaining undefeated for the first 17 rounds and with only 10 goals conceded it’s obvious that he is in control at the back with Leandro Castan. Anticipates danger before it happens and looks to snuff it out at birth, shown by his low average of just two tackles per game. He has also found the time and space to score five times and struck possibly Roma’s goal of the season against Bologna, when he screamed in a stunning volley. Aldair-like.
Giorgio Chiellini [Juventus]
The big fellow is a dominating presence, particularly in the air and is no slouch on the ground either. He is always looking to set up a counter-attack and showed his alertness at set pieces when he scored from a rebound in Week 7’s 3-2 win over Milan. Also has the highest perfect pass percentage of the whole team and against Cagliari reached a fabulous 98 per cent pass accuracy. Thuram-like.
Alessio Cerci [Torino]
Once an out and out winger, the right-footed midfielder is equally as brilliant playing further forward and more central. Has energy and pace to burn and his intelligent use of the ball sees him top the assist charts with seven, while he is also the club’s top scorer on nine. He is absolute lighting on the counter-attack and can make a prima ballerina look like she has hooves on. In Week 3’s game against Milan he produced a stunning example of this when he scored and set up another following swift breaks from defence. Schifo-like.
Arturo Vidal [Juventus]
With his sheer resourcefulness the Chilean ace has been almost impossible to contain. His energy and persistent running gives the opposition real headaches and he typifies his nickname, ‘The Warrior’ every game. He always maintains an impressive momentum and is never far from the most meaningful action, shown by his eight goals and four assists. Tardelli-like.
Borja Valero [Fiorentina]
The Spaniard has been in magical form and in Week 16’s 3-0 thrashing of Bologna he scored the Viola’s second goal with almost Roberto Baggio-like quality. After collecting a pass from Giuseppe Rossi he stepped over it, let it run through his legs, controlled it with his right foot then taking a second touch hooked it beyond the flailing arms of the ‘keeper. Oh yes he has never missed a match and scored five goals with seven assists into the bargain. Rui Costa-like.
Paul Pogba [Juventus]
To add balance to this team the French youngster would play on the left and such is his physicality, work rate and skill, he would be equally as devastating. His breathtaking runs and agility have gone a long way towards Juve’s superiority in games, along with his five goals and five assists of course. The pick of those goals was his sensational volley against Napoli when he flicked the ball up before crashing an absolute thunderbolt into the roof of the net. Davids-like.
Carlos Tevez [Juventus]
The Argentinean has been on top form and defenders trying to stop him would have had better luck lassoing a lemur. With 11 goals and six assists he threatens through the middle, from the flanks and from deep. He literally pops up everywhere and with the highest average shots on goal it’s obvious what his value to Juve is. In Week’s 16’s 4-0 hammering of Sassuolo, he showed all of these abilities and more when he scored three and assisted the other. Vialli-like.
Giuseppe Rossi [Fiorentina]
With 14 goals and 41 per cent of the Viola’s total, with his incredible awareness the 26-year-old has been integral to the Tuscans’ success. This was perfectly witnessed in Week 16’s 3-0 defeat of Bologna where apart from setting up Valero’s goal, he also scored brilliantly himself. Receiving the ball over his shoulder, he cushioned it with his upper thigh before casually lobbing the ’keeper with a flick from the outside of his left boot. In short he is the perfect, modern striker and faster than a hummingbird in love, he poaches, sets them up and scores them from every angle. Batistuta-like.
Gonzalo Higuain [Napoli]
Pipita may look like he belongs on a mustard tin with that beard and is certainly as sharp as anything in one, as he cuts it every which way and more. The former Real Madrid ace has added a new dimension to Napoli’s attack, becoming top scorer on nine, with five assists. Always a total menace, whether scoring or producing, nowhere was this better shown than his brace and headed assist in the 4-2 win over Lazio in early December. Careca-like.
Coach: Rudi Garcia [Roma]
Roma knew they needed an entirely new direction after the debacle of last season and sold some top players while bringing in seemingly better ones. The Frenchman has worked wonders in his first half-term and the team have flourished under his direction as they look to a top three finish. Capello-like.
Special mentions: Miralem Pjanic [Roma] Gervinho [Roma], Kwadwo Asamoah [Juventus]
Ricardo Alvarez [Inter], Romulo [Verona], Adem Ljajic [Roma], Alessandro Diamanti [Bologna], Jose Callejon [Napoli], Alberto Aquilani [Fiorentina], Francesco Totti [Roma].
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