After one week of international break, and having seen the Azzurri experiencing their usual share of woes, it’s time for Italian fans to enjoy some domestic football again. Round 8 of Serie A, starting today, offers a rich menu full of games that could already shape the destiny of the involved teams, with at least three big matches and many more interesting fixtures.
So let’s take a sneak peek at what is going to happen today, in this first issue of The Cult of Calcio’s new column Rifinitura. In Italian football, an allenamento di rifinitura is the final training before a match: In this new feature, we will be looking at what the weekly Serie A matches have to offer, and in what conditions teams get to them.
It doesn’t happen often to see this many quality games in a single league round, the juicy part being a Sunday night Derby di Milano between Internazionale and Milan. What is traditionally known as the Derby della Madonnina has recently gained the additional characterization of the Chinese Derby – both clubs being owned by Chinese proprietors, in a city in which the Far Eastern community is numerous and deeply-rooted.
The match is an important crossroad for Vincenzo Montella’s Rossoneri, which have already lost 3 of their 7 Serie A games so far and can’t afford another misstep. Montella will miss injured Nikola Kalinic and disqualified Hakan Calhanoglu, and will likely switch to a 5-3-1-1 module, featuring Portuguese Andre Silva as lone striker and Spaniard Suso to support him from the back.
Luciano Spalletti’s Nerazzurri are in a much better position, having win 6 out of their 7 initial games, but have evidenced some gaps and loss of focus in their latest performances. With Marcelo Brozovic out of the game due to an injury, the only change in Inter’s usual lineup should be Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario.
The 8th Round of Serie A will be inaugurated this late afternoon when Juventus and Lazio will square off at Allianz Stadium in Torino, for the Bianconeri to restart their march after an unexpected draw with Atalanta two weeks ago, and for the Biancocelesti to confirm all the good things shown so far in their season. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri can count on a fully recovered Sami Khedira, and may leave top striker Paulo Dybala on the bench to the advantage of young Uruguayan winger Rodrigo Bentancur. Lazio will rely on their attacking trio top shape, with Nazionale’s forward Ciro Immobile supported by Sergej Milinkovic Savic and Luis Alberto.
At 20.45 tonight, another powerhouse showdown will take place at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, where Roma will host current top standing Napoli in an attempt to break their seven-win-in-a-row perfect record. The two teams have a fierce rivalry, which was only fueled further by some reproachable clashes between their supporters in the recent years.
Good news for home coach Eusebio Di Francesco, who can count again on captain Daniele De Rossi and young rising star Lorenzo Pellegrini in the midfield line, with recovered Diego Perotti to flank Edin Dzeko and Alessandro Florenzi in the offensive trident.
Napoli’s coach Maurizio Sarri will trust once again in his clockwork forward line with Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon. Italian-Brazilian midfielder Jorginho may win a place among the midfield line together with Allan Marques and Marek Hamsik.
A regional derby between Bologna and Ferrara side Spal will be the main course of Sunday afternoon fixtures. The two teams from Emilia Romagna have different ambitions but have been both showing some good calcio so far – the Rossoblu being the only team to have held Inter to a draw this season. Coach Roberto Donadoni can benefit of Greek right back Vasilis Torosidis’ comeback after a long injury. On the Biancazzurri’s side, bad news came from the sick bay during the week – with the confirmation that goalkeeper Alex Meret will need to undergo surgery, and delay once again his much-awaited Serie A debut. However, his replacement Alfred Gomis has been holding the fort pretty well so far, distinguishing himself as one of the best surprises in these early league matches.
Fiorentina-Udinese and Sampdoria-Atalanta are classical Serie A mid-standing matches, whose outcome should tell us more about which teams can battle with the strisciate (the striped-jersey teams Juventus, Milan and Inter), the romane (Roma and Lazio) and Napoli for some spots in next years’ European competitions. On the other hand, the matches between Cagliari and Genoa, and Sassuolo versus Chievo, will be important for the involved teams to distance themselves from the bottom of the standing. Most specifically, if Genoa and Sassuolo don’t start collecting some points, times will get tough for their trainers Christian Bucchi and Nicola Juric.
Torino will play in Crotone, trying to break coach Davide Nicola’s two-game positive streak, but will need to do so without their top striker Andrea Belotti, and center back Lyanco – whose injury at the ankle ligaments may keep away for the pitch for some time. Not exactly the best situation for trainer Sinisa Mihajlovic, who will need to push on discontinuous M’Baye Niang for his attacking line to make the difference.
A Monday night late kickoff between Hellas Verona and Benevento, arguably the worst teams seen in Serie A so far, looks like an early playoff to avoid relegation and will have a paramount importance for those who will manage to get the three points. On paper, Verona’s trainer Fabio Pecchia can count on a more quality lineup – featuring former Nazionale-capped players Alessio Cerci, Giampaolo Pazzini, plus Juventus-owner young talent Moise Kean. Le Streghe’s coach Marco Baroni is still missing his best player so far, midfielder Amato Ciciretti, and will have to make do with a 4-3-3 lineup featuring three Italian strikers.