They both passed their mid-week test scoring four goals, and now Milan and Juventus will square off in San Siro Stadium tomorrow at 18.00 for the main event of Serie A Round 11. The Bianconeri, which are on pursuit of top ranking Napoli, will constitute a crossroads in the season of Rossoneri coach Vincenzo Montella, who has been struggling so far to keep his side on track.
Montella needs three points to prove his detractors that his brand-new Milan can indeed make points against high ranking opponents, something that has failed to do so far. He will have to do so without his captain and leading defender, that Leonardo Bonucci who no longer than six months ago was wearing a black and white striped jersey. Bonucci, still disqualified after his direct expulsion from the match with Genoa, won’t have the chance to face his former trainer Massimiliano Allegri – with whom he had a troubled relationship that, rumors have it, was one the reasons prompting him to switch jersey.
The Milan coach will likely recur again to his new 3-4-2-1 module, which propitiated his 4-1 win in Verona against Chievo last Wednesday, giving him some breath after the recent multiple disappointing performances. Montella can count on a Suso that has been Milan’s added value so far when not forced to play out of position – i.e. on a two-men attacking line. Rossoneri lone striker should be Nikola Kalinic, with Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu to support him.
Allegri won’t change a lineup that earned him 6 points and 10 goals scored in the last two matches. Only difference versus the eleven that easily routed Spal 4-1 last Wednesday will be Mario Mandzukic, back after a one match ban. The Croatian will side Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala, behind forward Gonzalo Higuain. Federico Bernardeschi, the author of a wonderful goal against Spal, will start from the bench.
This Milan is far from being considered a top contender for the Scudetto, but they surely are going to be a tough test for Juventus. Calendar is not generous with the Bianconeri for this round – as all the other contenders for the top position have easier tests to face on paper.
Napoli will play Sassuolo on Sunday at 3.00 PM to maintain their solitary lead in the standing. Coach Maurizio Sarri may operate a small turnover in view of the upcoming Champions League match against Manchester City – doubts are among defenders, with Christian Maggio and Vlad Chiriches that may take the place of Elseid Hysaj and Raul Albiol. Sassuolo in San Paolo should pose small threat, especially as they will be missing striker Domenico Berardi.
Inter will travel to Verona for the Monday night late match. No changes in Luciano Spalletti’s usual lineup – with Roberto Gagliardini and Matias Vecino to form a two-men midfield, and Borja Valero playing as offensive midfielder – whereas Hellas will count again on Bruno Zuculini after his disastrous performance in the Derby with Chievo. Predictions heavily favor the Nerazzurri, but with Spalletti’s team prone to some dangerous blackouts – like the one that allowed Sampdoria to come back from 0-3 to 2-3 last week – you can never know.
A desperate Benevento, still looking to conquer their first point ever in the Italian top division, will receive Lazio on Sunday at their home Ciro Vigorito ground. Difficult to imagine that they will break the curse again the Biancocelesti, who caught an important 1-2 away win in Bologna on Wednesday, confirming their great shape. Troubles for Lazio are rather coming out of the pitch, “thanks” to some deplorable exploits by their supporters and president Claudio Lotito – which would deserve a separate article.
Little can be said about the poor Giallorossi, whose ten losses out of ten games is a negative record that can only be worsened by themselves. Nothing has been going right for them so far, including last away match in Cagliari – when they seemed to have finally grabbed one point as they equalised the Islanders’ lead at 94,’ only to concede another goal to Leonardo Pavoletti one minute later. Benevento is renown in Italy as the City of the Witches, who according to popular legends use to cast malocchio (a curse of bad luck) over people. In this case, it would seem that malocchio somehow fell upon the local football team…
The more famous Giallorossi, the one from Roma, will play against Bologna on the second match scheduled on Saturday. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco has fully recovered Dutch winger Kevin Strootman, and will line him up together with Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti to support the irreplaceable Edin Dzeko. Versatile Alessandro Florenzi will move back to play as right back. The Lupi are still shocked at the injury occurred to new-joiner Rick Karsdorp, who suffered the rupture of his left cruciate ligament in his Wednesday debut match against Crotone…just after recovering from an injury to his right cruciate ligament! (Maybe another case of malocchio?)
Roberto Donadoni’s Bologna is on a two-game losing streak: The Rossoblu will try to reverse the trend featuring an all-Italian attacking line with Simone Verdi, Mattia Destro, and Federico Di Francesco.
Sampdoria-Chievo at the Giuseppe Ferraris Stadium – aka Marassi – is a match to keep an eye for: both teams come from disappointing performance in the midweek round. Chievo let Milan leave Verona with a sounding 4-1 win, Sampdoria went down 0-3 against Inter before scoring two goals. Marco Giampaolo, the coach of the Blucerchiati, has only one doubt – whether to deploy Gaston Ramirez or Gianluca Caprari. The Gialloblu will miss Perparim Hetemaj, facing a one game ban.
Spal will receive Genoa in Ferrara for an early relegation playout. The Biancazzurri are lost after an encouraging Serie A start: their attacking line, with veteran Marco Borriello and journeyman Alberto Paloschi, is scary on paper. Genoa showed some encouraging signs recently, holding Milan on to a ni-nil draw, then succumbing only 2-3 to Napoli. Adel Taarabt, formerly with Milan, may be coach Ivan Juric’s added weapon, together with recently recovered Luca Rigoni.
A rampant Fiorentina will pay visit to an endangered Crotone. The Viola’s coach Stefano Pioli will be looking for his fourth victory a row, but will miss striker Cyril Thereau: his fellow countrymen Valentin Eysseric will replace him. The Rossoblu from the Calabria Region, whose attacking line has been rotating so far, should feature Ante Budimir and Andrea Nalini.
Atalanta will play in Udine with an eye to their upcoming Europa League game, but that doesn’t seem to concern coach Gian Piero Gasperini – who won’t renounce to his best men: Alejandro Gomez, Josep Ilicic, and Andrea Petagna will all be part of the starting eleven. Among the Udinese lines, Brazilian defender Samir will be missing due to a one game ban. He will be replaced by Iraqi Ali Adnan Kadhim.
Torino-Cagliari will be the Sunday night match. Last minute win against Benevento in the midweek round gave new confidence to the Islander’s new coach Diego Lopez: His 3-5-1-1 module featuring only one striker will force match-winner Leonardo Pavoletti, and home-grown Marco Sau to start from the bench. The lone striker will be Diego Farias, supported by Joao Pedro. Goalkeeper Alessio Cragno will be injured for a while, Brazilian Rafael de Andrade will take his place.
Torino have scrapped together only two points in the last five games, and don’t make full score since September 20. The good news for coach Sinisa Mihajlovic – as well as for Italia coach Giampero Ventura – is the full recover of Andrea Belotti. The Nazionale striker may be on the pitch from the first minute.