Rifinitura: San Paolo Showdown, Verona Derby In Serie A Round 9

Catch your breath tonight, for the first confrontation between the top 2 team in Serie A 2017-18. Napoli and Inter will face each other at San Paolo Stadium, with the Partenopei trying to place a wider gap among themselves and the pursuing pack. Conversely, if Nerazzurri were to win, they would reach Napoli at the top spot of the league table.

Napoli vs Inter - Serie A Tim 2016/2017
Napoli and Inter met in San Paolo last time in December 2016: It was a crushing 3-0 win for the Azzurri

Good news for the Neapolitan coach Maurizio Sarri as kick off approaches: his star Lorenzo Insigne, who suffered an injury during their midweek Champions League battle in Manchester, has recovered, and has good chances to make it to the starting lineup. Worst case scenario, Algerian winger Adam Ounas is ready to take his place.

Luciano Spalletti has no such problems, as his players can rest during weekdays. Inter is out of European competitions this season, which means full focus on the domestic league and – in this case – the most recent sweet memory of a derby won at the last minute against home-rival Milan.

Brace for impact, Napoli-Inter starts at 8.45 PM – Italian time, of course.

Serie A Round 9 will be kicked off earlier at 6.00 PM with an appealing match between Sampdoria and Crotone. The Bluecerchiati forced their way through Atalanta last Sunday to place themselves at the 6th spot of the league table. Relegation-battling Crotone are on a three-game row with no losses.

The Sunday lunchtime game will be a new edition of the Derby della Scala, the fifth and most recent among Serie A derbies, between the two sides of the city of Verona – Hellas and Chievo. Derby della Scala doesn’t take place very often as Hellas has been swinging between Serie A and B in the recent years. Yet, this season will see the Verona clubs facing each other three times, including a 4th Round match of Coppa Italia in November.

The Cult of Calcio will cover extensively the first edition of the derby tomorrow. Hellas, which is generally knowns as simply “Verona” among the Italian fan base, comes to it after having caught their first seasonal win last Monday in Benevento. Rolando Maran’s Chievo is one of the most regular mid-standing teams when it comes to performance and lineup.

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A shot of Hellas Verona’s supporters in Marcantonio Bentegodi Stadium. Both Verona teams share the same yellow and blue colors…

Sunday afternoon will come as redeem time for Milan and Juventus, who need a quick come back after coming out of Round 8 with empty hands.

The role of Vincenzo Montella as Milan head coach is severely at risk, as his team’s encouraging but unlucky performance in the Derby di Milano was followed by a faint no-goal draw against AEK Athens in Europa League. Director of Football Massimiliano Mirabelli’s words (“Every coach has his time”) sounded like a sinister warning for the Aeroplanino, who is in desperate needs of   points in Serie A after three consecutive losses. Not sure if Genoa, which caught their first win last week in Cagliari, will agree to that.

Juventus suffered a shocking home defeat one week ago, and struggled to put their head past Sporting Lisboa in Champions League Round 3 on Wednesday. Mario Mandzukic saved the day for coach Massimiliano Allegri in Europe, but an away win in Udine is needed tomorrow to avoid losing contact with the leading duo – maybe hoping that Napoli and Inter won’t hurt themselves tonight and come up with a tie. Udinese have scraped together a meager six points so far, yet in the right day can pose a tough challenger to anyone.

There is much curiosity about Roma and how coach Eusebio Di Francesco’s boys will fare tomorrow against Torino, following the adrenaline-filled Champions League 3-3 draw in London from last Wednesday. Captain Daniele De Rossi, who didn’t participate in the goal fest against Chelsea, will take his place back. Three-men offensive line is confirmed, with Alessandro Florenzi and Diego Perotti siding Edin Dzeko. Torino will still be missing their top striker Andrea Belotti: it will take all of coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s drive, and push from the home supporters, for the Granata not to repeat the same disappointing performance as last week in Crotone.

Champions League - Chelsea vs AS Roma
Will Roma’s Edin Dzeko continue with his positive trend after the two goals scored to Chelsea?

Atalanta-Bologna is another match to keep an eye for, with the Bergamaschi coming from an exciting 3-1 win in Europa League against Apollon Limassol, and Roberto Donadoni’s Rossoblu willing to keep walking the path to Europe next year. Thursday’s match left a few aches among the Atalanta lines, with Alejandro Gomez possibly forced to start from the bench – but trainer Gian Piero Gasperini may have recovered defender Rafael Toloi. For Donadoni, the only doubt is whether to deploy seasoned Rodrigo Palacio or younger Mattia Destro on the stiking line.

In a new Emilia Romagna Region derby, Spal will play Sassuolo in Ferrara with the aim of breaking their negative pattern. After an encouraging start, the Biancazzurri have collected only one point in the last five games. Christian Bucchi’s Neroverdi are not doing much better – with the same league points as their rivals, but the second worst scoring tally in Serie A: They will try to reverse the trend with an offensive trident made by Domenico Berardi, Alessandro Matri and Matteo Politano, whereas coach Leonardo Semplici can count again on Marco Borriello to lead his Spal side.

Benevento will play at their home ground in an attempt to avoid their 9th consecutive loss: That would be the worst start ever for a Serie A team. The endeavor looks a desperate one, as coach Marco Baroni is missing three key defenders, and his team morale is shattered. Their opponent, a temperamental Fiorentina, are looking for confirmations after a positive win against Udinese last week.

In a Sunday night postponed match, Lazio will face Cagliari at home to continue their magic moment, after having trailed Mario Balotelli’s Nice in Europa League. Simone Inzaghi is likely to confirm his winning eleven from last week against Juventus – well, can you blame him? The Islanders come to Rome for the debut of their new coach Diego Lopez – who has replaced the sacked Massimo Rastelli. Lopez’s first choice might be switching to a 3-5-2 module, leaving offensive midfielder Joao Pedro on the bench.

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