The Serie A title race has been a privileged affair for a select few for quite a while. The fight for the Champions League spots has been the more intensely fought one and it doesn’t seem to be too different this season either. Juventus and Roma are considerably ahead of the rest of the pack although the points gap may not yet be entirely indicative of this. However, Napoli are likely to find it difficult to hold on to their playoff spot given the way the league is shaping up so far. Sampdoria have been flirting very close to the spot while Genoa too have grabbed everyone’s attention. Fiorentina and the Milano teams should always be around the corner and amidst all this, Matchday 11 in Serie A promises to be an entertaining one.
Fiorentina and Napoli in the clash of the week
The Florence based side hasn’t had the best of starts to their season and despite a handsome looking squad on paper, their performances have been far from inspiring. Currently standing 10th in the league table, Fiorentina are fairly off their Champions League qualification objective – something they came agonizingly close to a couple of seasons back but have only regressed since then. The latest 1-3 defeat to high-flying Sampdoria has done enough to deter the momentum gained off the astounding victories over Milan and Inter during the previous few weeks.
Vincenzo Montella, during his time in charge of the club, has mostly been praised from all corners and deservedly so. Now, however, is probably the time when aesthetics, should the need be, will have to make way for results for the fans have waited for a little too long for the team to start living up to its promise. Their play has been wayward in the weeks preceding this game and Montella needs to find the right mix sooner rather than later. A midfield three of Aquilani, Pizarro and Valero on paper makes for a very formidable unit but the performances haven’t quite been inline with this. A dominant midfield has always meant a dominant Fiorentina and in order to overpower Napoli, the battle will inevitably boil down to midfield supremacy.
Napoli themselves haven’t been enjoying the greatest season either but they’ve mounted a very strong comeback after a slow start. An astounding 6-2 victory over Verona was followed by a draw against Atalanta but a win over Roma last week would surely raise their confidence. In Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne and Higuain, Napoli boast of what is arguably the best attacking quartet in the league and their gameplay off late has been pretty effective with the midfield pivot too raising the bar. Napoli are currently only a point behind Lazio and Sampdoria and a win over Fiorentina could mean a great deal at this stage since teams are hardly enjoying any breathing space.
Probable Starting Lineups
Fiorentina [4-3-1-2]: Neto; Tomovic, Rodriguez, Savic, Alonso; Aquilani, Pizarro, Valero; Fernandez; Cuadrado, Babacar
Napoli [4-2-3-1]: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Inler, David Lopez; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain
Milan face an uphill battle against Sampdoria
Pippo Inzaghi’s AC Milan haven’t won a game in their last three outings and their latest home defeat to the relegation candidates, Palermo, has surely stirred a hornet’s nest. Protesters had taken to San Siro at one point during the last season but it hardly seems Berlusconi & co. have done their homework to avoid a repeat performance. After what seemed to be a promising start this season under Inzaghi, the team has clearly flattered to deceive and nothing seems to work at the moment. Either there’s something wrong with the system Inzaghi deploys or probably he hasn’t quite got the right set of personnel, but either way, his days at Milan seem to be numbered, albeit it not being his fault entirely.
Sampdoria, on the other hand, are surely the surprise package this season and their progress all the way to the fourth place on the table has been remarkable. Their emphatic win over Fiorentina last week has caught everyone’s attention and without an iota of doubt, they start favourites against the more celebrated side from the North. Sampdoria are without the services of Angelo Palombo for this game who serves a suspension but a midfield trio of Soriano, Obiang and Rizzo should be more than a handful against a completely listless looking Milan midfield.
The Rossoneri will be hugely banking on Stephan El Shaarawy to deliver the goods but his form and fitness do not inspire much confidence. Jeremy Menez has been completely off colours after garnering much media attention with his performances during the initial weeks. Milan’s key player this game has to be Japanese winger Keisuke Honda who has had a pretty decent season so far but in a system that doesn’t quite assure him the required service, one can never be too sure of his impact.
Probable Starting Lineups
Sampdoria [4-3-3]: Romero; De Silvestri, Gastaldello, Regini, Mesbah; Soriano, Obiang, Rizzo; Gabbiadini, Okaka, Eder
Milan [4-3-3]: Lopez; Bonera, Rami, Mexes, De Sciglio; Essien, De Jong, Bonaventura; Honda, Menez, El Shaarawy
Elsewhere in Serie A
The race for the top is a tightly contested one between Juventus and Roma. Losing last week to Napoli, Roma stand three points off the top now and Juventus find themselves with some breathing space at the top of the table. The Bianconeri host Parma this Sunday in what should almost certainly be a routine three point fixture whereas Roma host Torino in what could be a more tricky game for Rudi Garcia’s men.
Inter are currently placed 9th on the table but their standings could potentially improve with a win over Verona who aren’t too far behind them. Over the last one month or so, Lazio have been one of the most consistent sides in the peninsula and without too many noticing, they have climbed up the league ladder considerably. An away win over Empoli could push them further up and, more importantly, make life difficult for their perennial rivals AS Roma.