Seen by some as the 'new Atalanta' thanks to their relentless attacking football and habit of surpassing expectations, Sassuolo have scored four goals in each of their last three games and are second with 10 points.

A win over pointless Torino on Friday would take Roberto De Zerbi's side one point ahead of current leaders AC Milan, who do not play until Monday when they host AS Roma, and with no other team able to catch them over the course of the weekend.

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In other matches, third-placed Atalanta (9 points) are at home to Sampdoria on Saturday while Napoli (8) visit promoted Benevento on Sunday and titleholders Juventus (8) entertain Verona.

Sassuolo have established a firm foothold since reaching Serie A for the first time in 2013 and are in their eighth consecutive season in the top flight.

De Zerbi is an admirer of coaches such as Manchester City's Pep Guardiola and Leeds United's Marcelo Bielsa and his team's style of play would be instantly recognisable to followers of those clubs.

The 41-year-old's belief in keeping the ball runs so deep that he even praised Manuel Locatelli last week after the midfielder gave away possession on the edge of the area and allowed their opponents to score in the 4-3 win over Bologna.

"We must not be afraid of losing the ball, because that can happen. If we want to play from the back and take the initiative, we will be repaid in the long run," he said.

Midfielder Filip Djuricic even turned down a chance to move to AC Milan because he felt Sassuolo were a better run-club.

"Everything works, starting with a serious and organised club who always follow an idea," he said. “It’s a type of football that everyone might not understand, but it’s the future.”

De Zerbi led Sassuolo to eighth last season and his biggest fear was that the team could be broken up in the transfer window as bigger clubs swooped, but they survived largely intact and are aiming even higher this time.

"Our best deal was keeping hold of our key players and it wasn't easy because there was a lot of interest," said general manager Giovanni Carnevale. "But these lads wanted to stay with us because they believe in the Sasuolo project."

(Writing by Brian Homewood Editing by Toby Davis)

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