Five things we learned in Serie A

Angus MACKINNON
Juventus' forward Gonzalo Higuain greets Napoli's forward Dries Mertens at the end of an Italian Serie A football match on April 2, 2017 at the San Paolo Stadium

Gonzalo Higuain is actually a sensitive lad, Lazio are on the up and Milan long for a return to loads-of-money days.

Five things we learned in Serie A this weekend:

Higuain a sensitive soul

He does not give that impression when he is muscling defenders out of his way or indulging in some of football's off-the-ball dark arts.

But it seems Juventus's burly Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain is a sensitive soul at heart.

Or at least that was what Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri said after his 90-million-euro star produced a subdued performance on his return to former club Napoli, where fans jeered his every touch and had printed his image on toilet paper to mark the return of the "Judas" who abandoned them.

"It wasn't an easy night for him because he is a sensitive guy," Allegri said.

Milan's credit crunch

New funds cannot arrive quickly enough at AC Milan, on the evidence of a blunt forward display in Sunday's 1-1 draw at rock bottom Pescara.

More dropped points mean the seven-times European champions' hopes of a return to the continental stage are receding as a Chinese consortium prepares to finalise its buyout of current owner Silvio Berlusconi.

The media tycoon once ensured his coaches had the pick of Europe's finest talent. But the cash taps have been switched off for years now and it is unclear if the new owners will turn them on again.

The rumour mill says they will, with Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a former Milan trainee, touted as a 70-million-euro summer target. On the basis of Sunday's spurned chances, a 30-goals-a-season striker is exactly what the Rossoneri need.

Belotti's star rising

Edin Dzeko grabbed the headlines on Saturday, when his double against Empoli took his season's tally for Roma to 33 goals in all competitions, eclipsing a club record held by, among others, veteran captain Francesco Totti.

In Serie A however, Dzeko's exploits have been matched by young Torino and Italy forward Andrea Belotti, whose late equaliser against Udinese on Sunday took his league haul to 23: impressive for a club treading water in mid-table.

Little wonder the 23-year-old is reportedly a 60-million-euro target for Arsenal and Chelsea: but he has scotched speculation about an imminent move to London, telling reporters this weekend that he will definitely be at Torino next season.

Yo-yo no more

One of Serie A's yo-yo clubs (relegated and immediately promoted three times since the turn of the century), Atalanta have been such a revelation this season that new manager Gian Piero Gasperini is being tipped as a potential coach of the season.

A 5-0 thrashing of Genoa on Sunday lifted the Bergamo-based club into the European places, with the help of a hat-trick from Argentine no. ten Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez.

The secret? Gomez's form and 14 league goals have helped the cause hugely but insiders say Gasperini is also reaping the benefits of a strong youth development and recruitment system predating his arrival at the start of the season.

Highly-rated young stars include central defender Andrea Conti, 23, seen as a potential replacement for John Terry by Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, and the Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie, 20.

Lazio ready for Roma

Things are looking up for Lazio. Saturday's comeback win at Sassuolo left Simone Inzaghi's squad just four points off a Champions League spot with Napoli, the side currently occupying Italy's third qualifying slot, due at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday. And on Tuesday, Inzaghi's men defend a 2-0 first-leg advantage in their Italian Cup semi-final with Roma.

With the most fanatical fans having decided to end a boycott imposed over a series of disputes with the club hierarchies, "ultras" on both sides have promised to deliver an old-school Roman derby atmosphere.