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Football

Juventus, Napoli do battle in Serie A round 7

Roma vs Lazio

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Saturday, 29-09-2018 @04:00pm (Super Sport 9)

The Derby della Capitale arguably could not come at a better time for both fans of Roma and Lazio, as well as general Serie A neutrals. Both the Giallorossi and the Aquile come into this fixture having won their respective midweek ties against Frosinone and Udinese, but at this point in the season, that is pretty much all the bitter cross-town rivals can say they have in common. Lazio did have a rough start to the campaign, but in all fairness to Simone Inzaghi’s side they did have to face Napoli and Juventus – the two sides who finished second and first in the league table – in their first two games of the current term. Not an easy proposition for any side, and not the way any team would want to kick start a new season. Injuries also have not been kind to the Aquile, either, but such is the luck of the draw in football, and Inzaghi has done the best he can with the resources he has available. Having overcome those two difficult opponents, though, Lazio seem to have slowly started to find their footing, and now come into this game having won four on the trot. That includes a 4-1 defeat of Genoa in a performance more reminiscent of what fans were used to seeing from Lazio last term, and a more assured showing in a 2-1 road victory against Udinese midweek. Certainly, they will be brimming with confidence ahead of their derby clash against a Roma side who are still out of sorts and seem to be suffering from a hangover following their impressive exploits of last term.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side did cruise to a comfortable 4-0 win over Frosinone, but that has only helped to paper over some major flaws in this team. Roma have had a torrid time so far, throwing away two points against Chievo in a match they really should have won, and suffering a humiliating 2-0 loss to a Bologna side who before then had not scored a Serie A goal. The change to a 4-2-3-1 formation seems to have worked, giving Cengiz Under and Javier Pastore roles they relish in support of a centre-forward. As for Lazio, Felipe Caicedo’s impressive form and work-rate could see him push Luis Alberto on to the bench for a more traditional 3-5-2. Could this derby be the turning point for the Lupi, or will they be picked off by their arch rivals who are beginning to hit form at just the right time?

There has been only one draw between these sides since January 2015, with Roma winning six and Lazio two.

Juventus vs Napoli

Allianz Stadium, Torino

Saturday, 29-09-2018 @07:00pm (Super Sport 9)

It is a top of the table clash on Saturday as Juventus host Napoli in the match of the season so far. Juventus have had a perfect beginning to the new campaign, both domestically and in Europe. Last weekend they defeated a resilient Frosinone 2-0 after Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock with less than 10 minutes to spare, a week after breaking his Serie A duck against Sassuolo. In their midweek victory against Bologna, Paulo Dybala grabbed his first goal of the season before Ronaldo assisted Blaise Matuidi for a 2-0 win. Federico Bernardeschi is also in red hot form for La Vecchia Signora, so he is expected to line up in this fixture, although in what role and what formation it remains to be seen. A win here for the Bianconeri will solidify their spot up top, and will be a huge statement for a club potentially heading for their eighth straight Scudetto. In team news, Max Allegri will be missing Sami Khedira, Mattia De Sciglio and Leonardo Spinazzola as they battle injuries, while Douglas Costa is still suspended for two more games.

Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli have enjoyed a great start to the season of their own. Their sole loss of the season came in the third round – a 3-0 loss to Sampdoria. However, they have won each of their five other games. They have already beaten the likes of Lazio and Milan, so the Partenopei could move into top spot with a win in Turin. On Wednesday, they made light work of Parma with a 3-0 victory, thanks to an Arkadiusz Milik brace and Lorenzo Insigne. The Polish striker has scored three times already this season, so he is starting to rediscover his form he was in before his knee injury two seasons ago. Napoli will be without long-term absentees Alex Meret, Faouzi Ghoulam, Amin Younes and Vlad Chiriches for the top-of-the-table clash.

Last season, Kalidou Koulibaly’s header ended a run of one point from Napoli’s last nine competitive trips to Turin.

Inter Milan vs cagliari

Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan

Saturday, 29-09-2018 @09:30pm (Super Sport 9)

After a slow start to the season, Inter have won three on the bounce and are looking to make it four against Cagliari this Saturday. The Nerazzurri play host to the Rossoblu following their last match against Fiorentina, which saw Luciano Spalletti’s men take all three points. Cagliari Coach Rolando Maran, however, isn’t in such high spirits. The Sardinian side haven’t won a league match since the beginning of the month, so the task of turning their fortunes around at San Siro is a tough ask. Inter captain Mauro Icardi scored his first Serie A goal of the season in the form of a penalty during his team’s match against La Viola, and he’ll be looking to get back into the fray for the title of Capocannoniere. Despite Icardi’s slow start, Inter haven’t lacked an offensive threat. There have been seven separate goal scorers so far this season, Ivan Perisic leading the pack with two.  Defensively, Inter are yet to find an outright consistent level. Despite that, the back line has seen improvements that are sure to become permanent once Sime Vrsaljko returns from his injury. Also, the fact that the partnership between Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar is starting to click is a big blow to the already struggling Cagliari attack.

Cagliari are currently 16th in the league and have scored a measly four goals in their opening six matches – half of those coming against Sassuolo. So far no one has established themselves as a valuable source for goals and unless Leonardo Pavoletti, Marco Sau, or Diego Farias take up the responsibility, things don’t bode well for the Rossoblu.

In their last three matches with Cagliari, Inter averaged four goals a game.

Bologna vs Udinese

Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, Bologna

Sunday, 20-09-2018 @01:30pm

Brecentologn’s  2-0 home win against Roma suggested that Bologna were about to turn a corner, and while the midweek loss to Juventus was tough and left them in the relegation zone, they would have eyed up this game against Udinese as the real barometer of their capabilities.  After facing Inter, Roma and Juve already, Bologna will be happy to see an Udinese side that, while talented, has yet to put together a strong run of results to move them out of the middle of the Serie A table. Two wins, two draws and two losses have been all Julio Velazquez’s side could muster out of their start, but while the results may not be too pleasing, they’ve at least shown in their losses to Fiorentina and Lazio that they’ve stayed in the game until the final whistle and have always given themselves a fighting chance. The wins against Sampdoria and Chievo showed that they can bring out wins when they work as a team – with the stats in both games suggesting that Udinese weren’t exactly dominant – but games like this against Bologna is where they will have to pick up points. They’ll see this as a very winnable game and a chance to put all three points on the board, but Bologna won’t be an easy test.

Udinese have won five of the last seven meetings between these sides, home and away, but there hasn’t been a draw since 2013.

Cheivo vs Torino

Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona

Sunday, 30-09-2018 @04:00pm

The pressure is mounting on Torino for not fulfilling their potential, while Chievo sit rock bottom and show no signs of improvement. The Flying Donkeys are glued to the bottom of the table sitting on minus one point after having three deducted from them at the start of the season for financial irregularities. Their last outing was a 2-0 loss away to Genoa midweek, which followed another 2-0 defeat this time at home to Udinese.  Their comeback against Roma when two goals down and a somewhat decent performance against champions Juventus have been their only highlights so far. Coach Lorenzo D’Anna is in his first full season as a boss in the top flight and has a tough job on his hands to lift his team up out of the relegation zone. He will be fully aware that picking up something in this match is vitally important for his side to start their climb up the table. D’Anna’s inexperience, the fact that they began the season on minus three points and the lack of any real quality on the pitch have all probably contributed to their poor start. Two of his defenders, Bostjan Cesar and Mattia Bani, are doubts to be fit in time for this one.

The Granata, on the other hand, have had a slightly better start to their league campaign with one win and three draws to their name, but still precious little compared to expectations. Their last match was a goalless draw in Bergamo midweek, which came off the back of a 3-1 defeat to Carlo Ancelotti’s rampant Napoli side. Toro were timid and toothless in that game and had to rely on an Andrea Belotti penalty to get themselves on the scoresheet.

Torino are unbeaten against Chievo since February 2016, managing two wins and two draws, home and away.

Fiorentina vs Atlanta

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Firenze

Sunday, 30-09-2018 @04:00pm

Fiorentina are raging after their narrow defeat to Inter and want to take it out on struggling Atalanta in a crunch tie for European targets. The Viola have been very impressive this season with youthful Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone, Alban Lafont and Nikola Milenkovic their standout performers. The only losses to Napoli and Inter have been very tight and unlucky, especially at San Siro where their players and directors were furious at various refereeing decisions. They’ll want to take that frustration out on Atalanta, who are a shadow of their former selves. Starting the season in July only to crash out of the Europa League play-offs on penalties to FC Copenhagen took a lot out of them. Without a win now since the opening weekend, the Orobici scraped just four draws from their last seven competitive games.

The last four meetings between these sides were all stalemates. Atalanta haven’t beaten Fiorentina since a 2-0 Bergamo result in April 2012, managing nine straight defeats and those four draws. The most recent away victory for the Orobici was 1-0 in January 1993.

Frosinone vs Genoa

Stadio Benito Stirpe, Frosinone

Sunday, 30-08-2018 @04:00pm

Frosinone are still looking for their first Serie A goal of the season, as they welcome high-flying Genoa to the Stadio Benito Stirpe. The newly-promoted side have struggled upon their return to the top flight, and only Chievo’s point deduction is keeping them off the bottom of the table. We may not even be in October yet, but the early signs indicate a quick return to Serie B for the Canarini, albeit not as quick as Palermo would have liked after their appeal against Frosinone’s promotion was thrown out. In fairness to Moreno Longo and his side, they’ve had a tough start to the season which has seen them face Lazio, Sampdoria, Juventus and Roma in their past four matches. Nonetheless, a record of 16 goals conceded and not a single one scored doesn’t make for happy reading and this weekend’s fixture is another tough one.

Genoa were slipping toward relegation under Ivan Juric last season, but the return of Davide Ballardini lifted them away from danger and the Coach has continued his good work this season. The postponement of their opener against Milan means the Grifone have played one game less than everyone bar the Rossoneri, but they nonetheless sit in seventh place, just one point behind Inter. However, they have lost both games on the road so far this season, which should offer a glimmer of hope for Frosinone – they just have to score first.

If Frosinone fail to score against Genoa they’ll set a new record for a goalless start to the season. Against Roma they equalled Catania’s unwanted record of failing to score in the first six games, which was set in 1970-71.

Parma vs Empoli

Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma

Sunday, 30-09-2018 @07:00pm

These two sides were promoted from Serie B over the summer and so far Parma have adapted better than Empoli. Roberto D’Aversa’s side will finally feel their season can achieve lift-off. The Ducali have had arguably the toughest start to their Serie A campaign, with games against Napoli, Inter and Juventus making up half of their schedule. Credit does have to be given as Parma find themselves in 12th place with a surprising amount of optimism around the club after the rebirth of Gervinho and the win against Inter at San Siro. However, it’s the games like this one against Empoli that will define Parma’s season, whether that’s surviving relegation or even beyond.

Empoli, however, reside where they’re most likely expecting to be for the most of the season – near the relegation zone. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side had a hard-fought draw against Milan last round, but their win against Cagliari on opening matchday remains their only success. As the home and superior side, you can expect Parma to control the ball for large portions of this encounter. The individual quality of Gervinho and Roberto Inglese should be enough to see Parma through this one, but another top performance from Empoli’s goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano surely cannot be written off.

In team news, Parma have a host of injuries, including winger Jonathan Biabany and Sulley Muntari, who is yet to make his debut for the club. Empoli will welcome back crucial Slovenian attacking midfielder Miha Zajc, who sat out his one-match ban against Milan.

Last season, Empoli beat Parma home and away in Serie B. The Ducali managed only one point against them since a 4-1 Stadio Castellani victory in March 2009.

Sassoulo vs AC Milan 

MAPEI Stadium – Città del Tricolore, Reggio nell’Emilia  

Sunday, 30-09-2018 @09:30pm

Surprise third-placed side Sassuolo face their second real test of the season with Milan in what already feels like a crunch match for Gennaro Gattuso. The main threats facing the Rossoneri on their trip to the Mapei Stadium are two faces the Milanisti will know well. Manuel Locatelli made the short move south this summer and has masterfully anchored a midfield previously desperate for an injection of youth, while Kevin-PrinceBoateng has been reinvented into a False 9, a role he performed with aplomb in La Liga with Las Palmas. Khouma Babacar and Federico Di Francesco have also proven to be useful additions for the Neroverdi, but Roberto De Zerbi’s side, much like their opponents, have no trouble in finding the net, but struggle to keep their opponents out. Sassuolo’s 2-0 win away to SPAL on Thursday evening may have been their second clean sheet of the season, but the Neroverdi have shipped eight goals in six games, a trend that is not sustainable for any side.

Milan on the other hand have yet to keep their opponents out this season, and their midweek encounter with Empoli emphasised their weak points. Gonzalo Higuain was out with a muscular issue, so their 15 shots returning just one goal seems a little bit more acceptable, but it does bring worries as to where the rest of their goals are going to come from when their record signing isn’t on the pitch or has an off day. Patrick Cutrone is still nursing that sprained ankle and was limping as a substitute in the draw with Empoli. That was Milan’s third consecutive stalemate, yet again taking the lead only to fumble it.

With both Gattuso and De Zerbi merchants of the 4-3-3, it will be interesting to see who wins the tactical battle. Sassuolo have certainly been more consistent in their play, but arguably too safe at times. It’s a great sign for them that they were able to rest so many key players on Thursday and still win away to surprise outfit SPAL. For Milan the key will lie with Franck Kessie and Lucas Biglia. The pair are known for covering lots of ground each game, but as Sassuolo’s attacks develop from deep and move very quickly from midfield to attack, early prevention will be the best way to stop their shaky backline conceding once again.

Although Domenico Berardi has found the net eight times in 11 games against Milan, the Rossoneri have dominated this fixture as of late. Sassuolo’s last win over the Rossoneri was in March 2016, followed by three defeats and a draw.

Sampdoria vs Spal

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genova 

Sunday, 30-09-2018 @09:30pm

Sampdoria face SPAL with both sides’ form having tailed off slightly following a promising start to the season. Marco Giampaolo’s Blucerchiati have taken only two points from their last three matches, while Leonardo Semplici’s men have lost three of their most recent four encounters. Goals have also been at a premium of late for both teams, with neither Samp nor SPAL having found the net in their last two Serie A fixtures.

The Marassi club will see Monday’s meeting with the Blucerchiati as an excellent opportunity to get back on track following difficult fixtures against Fiorentina and Inter and a midweek trip to Cagliari. Giampaolo’s team were unfortunate to lose late on to Marcelo Brozovic’s stoppage-time goal for the Nerazzurri last week, while they also sparkled in 3-0 and 5-0 victories over Napoli and Frosinone respectively. And with Fabio Quagliarella and Gregoire Defrel set to lead the line once more, Samp will be confident of breaking their recent scoring drought and climbing the table once more. Despite recent back-to-back defeats against Fiorentina and Sassuolo, SPAL are still performing above expectations to be sitting on nine points after six matches played.

The worry for Semplici is that the bedrock for early season wins over Bologna, Parma and Atalanta was his side’s ability to keep a clean sheet on each occasion. But having leaked five goals in their last two matches, the Ferrara side will have to produce a much better rearguard action if they are to take anything from Marassi. There are no suspensions for either side, although Monday’s match comes too soon for Riccardo Saponara, who is still a week away from recovering from a muscle injury. For SPAL, Federico Viviani is nearing a comeback following a calf strain but won’t be involved, while Jasmin Kurtic is expected to be out for around a month.

Samp have conceded just three goals in their opening six matches of the season – the best defensive record in Serie A.

 

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