Rifinitura: Milan Debut at Napoli, Tension Grows At Lazio

In Italian football, an “allenamento di rifinitura” is the final training session before a match. In the Cult of Calcio’s Rifinitura column, we take a look at what the weekly Serie A menu has to offer and in what condition the teams are in.

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Feature Photo: Getty Images
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It’s still summer, even for football supporters, but fate – or whatever it is that determines how football fixtures fall – knows a thing or two about capturing their imaginations.

The second round of the campionato più bello del mondo features quite a few examples of partitissima, with Juventus once again having the honor of kicking-off the football weekend today at 6 o’clock. The Milanesi meanwhile will dominate the later evening schedule when they take on Napoli. Inter host Torino.

The Bianconeri open their season at their Allianz Stadium home, as they welcome Lazio for a showdown that once upon a time was a battle for the Italian title. Their match at Verona a week ago was not exactly the walk in the park that many were expecting therefore Massimiliano Allegri may have a few changes up his sleeve.

Joao Cancelo didn’t excel at right back against Chievo, so the coach may opt for Andrea Barzagli or even Juan Cuadrado in that position. It looks like Paulo Dybala will also be left out of a three man attack, whose aces will be Douglas Costa, Mario Mandzukic and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Good news for Lazio comes in the form of recoveries from injury for Lucas Leiva and Adam Marusic. However, there is some tension brewing among the Biancocelesti (who remain scornful at their 1-2 loss to Napoli) as a leaked telephone conversation between President Claudio Lotito and manager Simone Inzaghi demonstrated.

Lazio’s volcanic chief was heard shouting at his coach “You are complaining all the time!” and “You have a team 10 times better than the others.”

Well, the latter may be a very bold claim, but it gives a flavor of the atmosphere inside Lazio’s Formello headquarters. This despite the club retorting that such discussions are the bread and butter of any president-coach relationship.

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“Simone, you are not the one who decides. I am.” That’s how the leaked phone conversation between Lazio President Claudio Lotito and coach Simone Inzaghi started. Inzaghi eventually claimed that they both laughed at the end of it…could that be true? (Photo: Vincenzo Livieri / Lapresse)

Milan’s first game of the season was postponed last week on account of the tragedy in Genoa, so their opening Serie A match will take place tonight against Napoli. Easy stuff, bro.

With Hakan Calhanoglu facing a one match ban, coach Gennaro Gattuso will probably opt to replace him with Fabio Borini, in a line-up that is likely to be reminiscent of last season. With the exception of Gonzalo Higuain, there may be few opportunities to see the new Rossoneri faces from the start, with Mattia Caldara, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Diego Laxalt all likely to be named among the substitutes.

On the Neapolitan side, Carlo Ancelotti has still not solved his goalkeeping conundrum. Will he rely on Oscar Karnezis again or leave room for last minute recruit David Ospina? With midfielder Fabian Ruiz injured, no other changes to the Azzurri starting eleven are expected.

On Sunday at 6 o’clock, a new Emilian derby will take place between SPAL and Parma, two clubs that impressed last week. The Ferraresi stunned Bologna with a missile struck by the foot of Jasmin Kurtic, while Parma went 2-0 up against Udinese before seeing the Friulani come back to snatch a draw. Ivorian star Gervinho will be part of the visitors’ squad for the first time, but will likely sit on the bench. No changes are expected to Leonardo Semplici’s winning line-up.

Sassuolo go to Cagliari aiming to emulate last week’s performance against Inter. Roberto De Zerbi is expected to pick the eleven men that shocked the Beneamata – and who would argue? The home side, on the other hand, will be hoping to recover from a disappointing 0-2 loss at Empoli. That might be easier said than done, considering two of Rolando Maran’s key defenders – Luca Ceppitelli and Fabio Pisacane – are out injured.

Fiorentina’s first match of the season sees the Viola host Chievo at the Artemio Franchi Stadium. The Florentine side managed to keep hold of their precious young gems Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone in the summer and they will form a three man front line together with Valentin Eysseric. There is little chance of seeing new signings Mario Pjaca and Kevin Mirallas just yet, as they are both ruled out by injury, but Stefano Pioli’s side certainly offers promise.

Chievo will have the task of testing the skills of the Viola, after distinguishing themselves last week by giving Juventus a pretty hard time. Coach Lorenzo D’Anna cannot count on his one man brick wall Stefano Sorrentino this time, so the place between the sticks will be taken by Andrea Seculin.

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Retaining the services of Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone was the best possible summer business for an ambitious Fiorentina side

Frosinone entertain Bologna in a match between two teams whose starts to the season were humiliating to say the least. Despite a 0-4 setback to Atalanta, the Canarini coach Moreno Longo doesn’t seem keen to make any changes to his side. Filippo Inzaghi, on the other hand, will need to cope with the absence of Rodrigo Palacio – a muscular strain looks likely to keep him out for at least three weeks. Paraguayan striker Federico Santander is ready to replace him, ahead of Mattia Destro who has just recovered from injury.

Genoa meanwhile have the arduous task of bringing football back to a city whose heart and soul have been broken. The Rossoblu welcome Empoli to the Marassi Stadium, as they simultaneously honor the 43 victims of the recent bridge collapse and look ahead to the future. There’s much curiosity around Davide Ballardini’s group, whose front line is intriguing on paper. Seasoned campaigner Goran Pandev will join Juventus’ homegrown talent Andrea Favilli, behind young Polish sensation Krzysztof Piatek – who already introduced himself to his new supporters by scoring four goals in a single Coppa Italia match. If Ballardini can find the right formula, these Grifoni might afford their followers a reason to start smiling again.

Aurelio Andreazzoli’s Empoli meanwhile are expected to stick with the formation that brought the Toscani victory over Cagliari last Sunday.

Torino pay a visit to Inter at the San Siro Stadium, with the Nerazzurri already in need of a positive message they can send to their supporters. Suning’s club are emerging from a busy transfer market, and are seen by many as the most credible contender to Juventus, yet their opening match ended in a 0-1 loss to Sassuolo. Pazza Inter, they call them – “Crazy Inter” – and with good reason. Luciano Spalletti will try to bounce back from their false start, resorting to Milan Skriniar in the back line, and promoting Croatians Sime Vrsaljko and Ivan Perisic to the starting line-up. Radja Nainggolan has recovered from his injury, but will sit on the bench.

The Granata handed all three points to Roma in the last minute in Round 1, despite playing well against Walter Mazzarri’s side. Tomorrow he can count on defenders Armando Izzo and Lorenzo De Silvestri again, as well as on Daniele Baselli – it is unclear if the latter will make it to the starting line-up though. Among the last minute additions, Roberto Soriano may find a spot, while Simone Zaza will probably need to stay patient.

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Pazza, pazza Inter! The Nerazzurri had a disappointing start to this year’s Serie A campaign as they lost 0-1 to Sassuolo last week. Is it time for Ivan Perisic to reclaim his spot in the starting eleven? (Photo: Getty Images)

At the Dacia Arena, Udinese play Sampdoria, the Genoan Blucerchiati also ready to kick-off their season after the cancellation of their overture last week. With new goalkeeper Juan Musso still injured, Udinese’s coach Julio Velazquez has a choice between Nicolas Andrade and Simone Scuffet. It will be interesting to see how the other team in Genoa, the blue-with-a-circle one, will appear after a transfer market that took big names like Lucas Torreira and Duvan Zapata away from them. If that was not enough, coach Marco Giampaolo also lost defender Dennis Praet until at least mid-September.

The Monday night match will see Roma facing Atalanta, the Nerazzurri having just contested a goalless draw with Copenhagen in the first leg of their last Europa League play-off. Gian Piero Gasperini’s boys will play the return match next Thursday, so some turnover is expected among his charges: goalkeeper Erit Berisha, defender Gianluca Mancini, new midfield recruit Ali Adnan from Udinese and Emiliano Rigoni up front are all staking a claim for selection.

Among the Roma lines, Justin Kluivert’s encouraging performance against Torino last week may have convinced coach Eusebio Di Francesco to give him a chance from the start. Byran Cristante may also gain a spot to the disadvantage of Kevin Strootman.

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