After a break for one week owing to international fixtures, the league action in Italy returns. The months of October and November are always billed as a very critical phase in a long footballing season as teams shall march towards achieving their objectives. Let’s take a look at some of the key clashes that promise to spice up the weekend football.
Inter and Napoli in a clash of poor starters
Walter Mazzarri enjoyed four eventful seasons in Naples being in charge of the club Diego Maradona still calls home but now his loyalties stand elsewhere, if not the allegiance too. In his second season at Inter, Mazzarri realizes he’s fast running out of time and unless results start to show, his employers shouldn’t quite hesitate to take tough calls. The Nerazzurri had got off to a stupendous start to the season decimating the Serie A newbies Sassuolo but things haven’t quite remained same since. Two back-to-back defeats, and humiliating ones at that, at the hands of Cagliari and Fiorentina means Inter are placed as low as 10th on the table having accumulated no more than 8 points off six games.
Ahead of their matchup with the Neapolitans, if there’s one thing Inter can feel good about, it’s that their opponents haven’t gone off to a flying start to their season either. Currently placed 7th with 10 points in their kitty, Napoli are coming into this game off two back-to-back wins but they’ve hardly been convincing ones. Their star players have been pretty inconsistent and even indifferent at times in the initial phase of the season and that should change soon, should they aim to give Juventus and Roma a run for their money in the title race. Napoli had finished a distant third from the two last season and that doesn’t look like changing this season given what has been on display so far. Much like Mazzarri, Rafa Benitez too should be feeling the heat and would be keen on letting his players have a major boost in confidence with a positive result at San Siro.
Inter skipper Nemanja Vidic has gone off to a horrible start to a new chapter in his career since his summer move from Manchester United. The veteran defender from Serbia will want to correct a lot of things having gone wrong and a performance against a top side matching his reputation and might could well be just about a perfect start. The team is filled up with exciting young talent and it’s about time the likes of Ranocchia, Kovacic and Icardi let their game do the talking at the big stage.
Napoli boast of what is arguably the best attacking quartet in the league that comprises of Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne and Higuain. Each of the four could quite comfortably walk into any side in Italy’s top division but the lack of coherent play has meant Napoli haven’t mustered as many goals as they’d have liked. Benitez will definitely be hoping for his attack to have sorted things ahead of this crucial game on Sunday.
Probable Starting Lineups
Inter [3-5-2]: Handanovic; Ranocchia, Vidic, Juan Jesus; Nagatomo, Hernanes, M’Vila, Kovacic, Dodo; Palacio, Icardi
Napoli [4-2-3-1]: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Zuniga; Inler, David Lopez; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain
Juventus keen on maintaining the lead at the top
That the title holders Juventus are a notch above any potential competition in the country is no secret. One team that may challenge their supremacy in Italy is AS Roma and Max Allegri’s men must have been considerably buoyed with a hard fought win over the Giallorossi when the latter visited Turin. Juventus now face Sassuolo in the seventh round of games and unless there’s an upset of gigantic proportions, a routine Juve courtesy a goal or two from Carlos Tevez is very well on the cards.
Sassuolo are one of the two sides in the league still in the hunt for their first win this season – Palermo being the other one. It’s vital for them to shift gears in order to push for a spot above the relegation spot before Christmas but it seems next to impossible to start that revamp against Juventus of all sides. A point, although unlikeliest of the outcomes, should be a reason to celebrate for the hosts on Saturday.
Probable Starting Lineups
Sassuolo [3-4-3]: Consigli; Antei, Cannavaro, Acerbi; Vrsaljko, Magnanelli, Brighi, Longhi; Berardi, Zaza, Sansone
Juventus [3-5-2]: Buffon, Ogbonna, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pereyra, Pirlo, Pogba, Evra; Tevez, Llorente
Roma look to bounce back after the Turin heartbreak
It was a great opportunity for AS Roma to break the string of poor results in Turin when they saw themselves lead the hosts Juventus at one point in the game. However, a couple of debatable calls and a sumptuous Leonardo Bonucci volley later, Roma were reduced to their first loss and in effect their first drop of points in the season. Juventus now sit three points above and the Romans would not want to allow them any more breathing space at the top.
Roma skipper Francesco Totti was pretty vocal in expressing his dissent at some of the decisions he felt favoured Juventus the other day but the result is behind them now and Roma must get their focus set on delivering three points off this home game. Chievo haven’t done much to show for in the season so far are merely a point clear off the relegation zone. Roma have showed a tendency over the last couple of seasons of making things hard for themselves against teams of visibly lesser pedigree and hence a point for Chievo cannot be discarded already.
Probable Starting Lineup
Roma [4-3-3]: De Sanctis; Maicon, Astori, Yanga-Mbiwa, Cole; Pjanic, De Rossi, Nainggolan; Ljajic, Destro, Florenzi
Chievo [3-5-2]: Bardi; Dainelli, Zukanovic, Cesar; Frey, Radovanonic, Cofie, Hetemaj, Biraghi; Paloschi, Lopez
Elsewhere in Serie A
AC Milan face Hellas Verona in their trip up north. The Rossoneri have had a topsy-turvy campaign so far and it’s time for them to shift gears and start pushing for a Champions League spot, which should realistically be their only agenda for the season. Fiorentina host Lazio in what could be another juicy encounter over the weekend. Both sides have managed 9 points off their six games but neither has looked good enough to pose any serious threat to Napoli for a third place finish. A draw here wouldn’t particularly help either. Palermo are yet to register their first win in the season and should that fail to happen on Sunday as they host Cesena, expect Maurizio Zamparini to pull off what he does the best.