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Football

Bologna vs SPAL

Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, Bologna

Friday, 30-08-2019 @9:45pm

Bologna welcome SPAL for the first Friday night game of the season and Sinisa Mihajlovic is expected to be on the bench again for this Emilia-Romagna Derby.

The Rossoblu were held to a 1-1 draw away to Hellas Verona last Sunday after Nicola Sansone’s penalty gave them the lead early in the first half. Portuguese veteran midfielder Miguel Veloso equalised before the break through a free kick, as Verona somehow shared the points despite going down to 10 men just 13 minutes in.

Coach Mihajlovic made a miraculous return to the bench after being diagnosed with leukaemia just six weeks ago and he was able to lead his players out, explaining to them that now is the time to be courageous, both on and off the field.

The Serbian tactician returned to the hospital right after the game, but has now finished the first round of chemotherapy and was released from hospital this week. Knowing his warrior spirit, he’ll want to be in the dugout for the first Stadio Dall’Ara game of the season.

Rodrigo Palacio could keep his place in the starting line-up with Federico Santander pushing for a recall, as the Argentine scored the Veltri’s only goal in the 1-1 draw at the Stadio Paolo Mazza last season.

The Spallini meanwhile, blew a two-goal lead at home to Atalanta on Sunday after Federico Di Francesco and Andrea Petagna put them two goals up early in the first half. Luis Muriel fired in a brace after a Robin Gosens header to turn the game around for 3-2.

Coach Leonardo Semplici could give new signing Arkadiusz Reca his debut after he joined from the Bergamaschi during the week for €4m. Brazilian defender Igor, who arrived from Red Bull Salzburg during the summer, impressed on his debut in the Peninsula and will be hoping to continue that form in this one.

Semplici’s only main absentee is Algerian midfielder Mohamed Fares, who is out with a long-term injury.

Expect this game to be an even affair, both teams are evenly matched and play a similar style of football. The Rossoblu will hope to get Orsolini on the ball as much as possible, as he is the one capable of making space for runners like Poli, Sansone and Roberto Soriano to get into the box. The Biancazzurri will rely on Petagna to link up with Di Francesco, with the big target man expected to get his teammates up the pitch.

AC Milan vs Brescia

Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Mila

Saturday, 31-08-2019 @7pm

The Lombardy Derby finds these teams in very different moods, as big-spending Milan crashed to defeat and new boys Brescia got off to a flyer.

Marco Giampaolo had a dismal debut at the Dacia Arena, as his men didn’t manage a single shot on target in their 1-0 defeat to Udinese. The performance prompted some soul-searching from the Coach, who is already debating a change of system from his trademark 4-3-1-2. Luckily, it’s so early in the season that the tactician has time to go back to the drawing board. It’s a reunion for Giampaolo, who was very briefly in charge of Brescia in Serie B for five games in 2013-14.

Lucas Biglia, Pepe Reina, Theo Hernandez and Mattia Caldara remain on the treatment table, but Samu Castillejo and Fabio Borini are likely to be dropped in favour of Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer. Giampaolo has been testing a Christmas Tree formation with Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso supporting Krzysztof Piatek. A 4-3-3 is also on the cards, though Calhanoglu has already tried playing wide left and it wasn’t entirely successful.

Eugenio Corini’s Brescia make the short trip to Milan feeling confident and sitting ahead of their opponents after already taking three points last weekend in Cagliari. The Rondinelle caused a massive upset in Sardinia, beating Radja Nainggolan and Nahitan Nandez on their own turf.

Hitman Alfredo Donnarumma, who finished Serie B Capocannoniere last season with an impressive 25 goals, found the net on his top flight debut with a well-taken penalty. He became the first Brescia striker since Dario Hubner to achieve the feat. It’s worth noting that while Alfredo Donnarumma shares a surname with Gianluigi and Antonio, they are not related, but do hail from a similar area near Naples.

President Massimo Cellino has big plans with his Brescia side, as seen with his signing of former Marseille striker Mario Balotelli, who will surely look to have an impact in the team later in the season. Unfortunately, Balo arrived with a four-match ban still looming over him, so won’t face his former club.

Albanian midfielder Emanuele Ndoj and defender Giangiacomo Magnani are on the treatment table, but striker Ernesto Torregrossa should be back on the bench and could even start, as he challenges Clermont loaner Florian Aye for a spot.

Only twice before have Milan lost the opening two rounds of the season, but they did eventually bode well. In 1986-87, they finished fifth, while managing to get third place after a bad 2008-09 start.

Juventus vs Napoli

Allianz Stadium, Torino

Saturday, 31-08-2019 @9:45pm

Maurizio Sarri faces his former club for the first time in this very early Scudetto showdown, although it remains to be seen if he’ll be fit for the dugout.

The Juventus Coach has been suffering from pneumonia and had been signed off the opening two games of the season by the club doctors, but his condition has improved over the last few days and he could well take his place on the touchline. It’s a reunion for many players, including former Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, but captain Lorenzo Insigne openly said he considered Sarri’s switch to their arch rivals “a betrayal.”

Both sides started the campaign with narrow away victories, as Juve squeezed past Parma thanks to Giorgio Chiellini, while the Partenopei played a spectacular 4-3 thriller at Fiorentina. The Bianconeri had no new faces in the starting XI that day, as they are easing the summer signings into the squad. That could change this time, with Adrien Rabiot probably pushing Blaise Matuidi on to the bench. Higuain is likely to get the nod once again, as Paulo Dybala’s future remains up in the air up to the September 2 transfer deadline.

Aaron Ramsey joined Marko Pjaca and Mattia Perin on the treatment table, while Matthijs de Ligt will probably be on the bench again, still waiting for his Serie A debut. Douglas Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo can complete the trident attack with Higuain.

Napoli have almost a full squad at their disposal, as Arkadiusz Milik is still not 100 per cent fit following a muscular issue in training. Dries Mertens therefore should lead the attack with support once again from Insigne, Fabian Ruiz and Jose Callejon, although Eljif Elmas has impressed since his move from Fenerbahce. Mertens is on sparkling form, finding the net in each of his last six Serie A appearances.

Nikola Maksimovic could step in to right-back for Giovanni Di Lorenzo in a more defensive-minded move, which also allows Napoli to shift to three at the back when Mario Rui bombs forward.

Sarri is known for his attack-minded approach to football and Carlo Ancelotti has said he is adopting far more positive tactics this time around, taking advantage of the vast potential at his disposal. If last week’s 4-3 win in Florence is anything to go by, it ought to be a very entertaining match with neither side holding back.

Lazio vs Roma

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @7pm

The Derby della Capitale comes early this season, as Roma are still getting to grips with their new Coach, while Lazio keep building momentum after their Coppa Italia triumph.

Both sides enter the clash in contrasting form, as while Lazio got a comprehensive 3-0 win away to Sampdoria, Roma fumbled the lead three times to be held by Genoa.

While Lazio, who will be the designated ‘hosts’ for the game, have continuity with the same manager in Simone Inzaghi, their rivals have transformed again under new boss Paulo Fonseca. In addition, the Biancocelesti have kept hold of their star players and added exciting wing-back Manuel Lazzari. Roma on the other hand have lost arguably their two most consistent performers, in the form of Stephan El Shaarawy and Kostas Manolas, and despite acquiring the likes of goalkeeper Pau Lopez, wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola and midfielder Amadou Diawara among others, it was another summer of change.

Regardless, this is Lazio vs Roma and anything can happen on Derby Day. In no other fixture does form go out the window quite like this one.

Leonardo Spinazzola and Diego Perotti are ruled out, so we could see a reshuffle with Davide Zappacosta getting his first start after the loan move from Chelsea and Alessandro Florenzi moved to a more advanced role with Nicolò Zaniolo and Cengiz Under.

The big talking points surrounding Le Aquile recently are the reports that they want to extend and improve Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s contract as reward for snubbing Manchester United, Inter and PSG. Inzaghi complained after their 3-0 demolition of Samp that people tend to ignore Lazio when talking about contenders for the top four. Well, if he can win the ever passionate and raucous Derby this weekend, people will take further notice.

Roma Coach Fonseca was questioned about his tactics following a 3-3 draw with Genoa on Sunday, however his response should give us an idea of what we can expect from the Portuguese tactician. “I will never prepare a game by concentrating on defending. I want a team that dominate and always takes the initiative.” While entertainment is demanded by the Roma faithful, they will want to see some balance from their club.

Those tactics are exactly why this game could be thoroughly enjoyable. Lazio play an entertaining, but controlled brand of football, while if the match versus the Grifone is anything to go by, Roma are likely to go all guns blazing. However, given the significance of the clash this weekend, we could see a bit more tactical nous being applied. If there’s an early breakthrough, expect fireworks.

Atalanta vs Torino

Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @9:45pm

Both Torino and Atalanta won their season openers, but the Granata count the cost of their Europa League exit to Wolves.

La Dea had an historic campaign and are now looking forward to facing Manchester City in the Champions League. It was achieved despite a very poor start, winning just one of their first eight games last season, but concluded with a 13-match unbeaten streak.

A major highlight as well was beating Juventus in the Coppa Italia and making it all the way to the Final. Whilst they were eventually defeated by Lazio, the fact that they even got that far was an achievement in itself.

Atalanta will now be active on three fronts this season and whilst Premier League champions Manchester City certainly are the big favourites to top Group C, they will arguably be fancying their chances against the likes of Ukrainian and Croatian outfits Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb.

The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia is still undergoing restructuring work, so this game will be played at the Stadio Tardini in Parma.

But for now, the focus will be on welcoming Torino, who will be somewhat disappointed that their European journey is now over before it even took off. Still, the Granata could well use Atalanta’s experience in the Europa League play-offs last season as motivation. Having lost both legs against Wolves, they’ll have to focus on domestic affairs for the upcoming season, which may not be such a bad thing considering the massive injury list they have to contend with at the moment.

Simone Zaza joined the likely absentees after a knock to the knee against Wolves, with Cristian Ansaldi, Lyanco, Iago Falque and Simone Edera already missing. It leaves only Alex Berenguer or teenager Vincenzo Millico as partners to Andrea Belotti.

Atalanta came from 2-0 down to secure a hard-fought 3-2 victory against a stubborn SPAL side, with Luis Muriel netting a brace, but he’s expected to again be on the bench in favour of Duvan Zapata – who was La Dea’s top goal-scorer last season. Josip Ilicic was suspended for that match, but returns to the starting XI, as only Timothy Castagne remains absent.

Meanwhile, Torino edged out plucky Sassuolo, with Zaza’s brace enough to hold off his former side, despite the Neroverdi attempting to claw their way back into the match.

Cagliari vs Inter Milan

Sardegna Arena, Cagliari

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @9:45pm

Radja Nainggolan and Nicolò Barella face their former clubs, as Cagliari are smarting from unexpected defeat and Inter had the perfect start to their season.

This looks to be a walkover for the sparkling new Inter side, as they were buoyed by last week’s 4-0 hammering of Lecce. Cagliari started off on the wrong foot against Brescia with a shock 1-0 home loss and will have to muster something special to have a chance against the Scudetto contenders, who score much higher on both morale and quality.

Nainggolan is likely to have some extra motivation for this game. When Antonio Conte arrived at Inter, he made an outcast of the ambitious Belgian and Mauro Icardi. As his wife was diagnosed with cancer, Nainggolan opted to return to his old club on a loan deal so they could be close to her family. Certainly, the Rossoblu Ninja has a point to prove, and he is probably the best shot at points for Cagliari.

Cagliari are dealing with a few significant absentees. First choice goalkeeper Alessio Cragno has a shoulder injury, and target man Leonardo Pavoletti is out after falling akwardly and spraining his knee. Paolo Faragò and Fabrizio Cacciatore are also out injured. There is no real Pavoletti alternative, so either Alberto Cerri or North Korea international Kwang-Song Han will lead the attack with Joao Pedro.

Extra firepower has just been added to the Inter ranks in the shape of Alexis Sanchez. He arrives on loan from Manchester United. The signing is a strong signal of intent and a typical no-risk deal from the hands of Giuseppe Marotta. Skeptics might point to the fact, that although Inter bagged four goals last week, it was against lowly Lecce. But Conte’s arrival has brought enthusiasm, which was reflected in several players, especially goalscorers Marcelo Brozovic and Antonio Candreva.

Inter are expected to repeat the formation they had against Lecce. Diego Godin is back in training, but practically hasn’t played throughout pre-season due to a muscular problem. Stefan de Vrij pulled out of the starting XI against Lecce on Monday night with a thigh issue, so could well be rested in favour of Andrea Ranocchia. Cristiano Biraghi arrived this week in a swap deal with Henrique Dalbert going to Fiorentina.

Barella effectively exchanged places with Nainggolan and it’ll be an emotional return to his hometown club. Conte is taking his time settling Barella into his tactics, so expect Matias Vecino to start instead.

Genoa vs Fiorentina

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @9:45pm

 

Lecce vs Hellas Verona

Stadio Comunale Via de Mare, Lecce

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @9:45pm

It’s only Week 2 and already a re-run of Serie B last season, as newly-promoted Lecce and Hellas Verona go head-to-head.

Despite a disastrous 4-0 defeat away to Inter, the result does not tell the whole story for Lecce, who kept on asking questions of their opponent’s defence. Coach Fabio Liverani can reflect on the positives, and build on that performance this Sunday.

Hellas Verona managed a more than decent 1-1 draw at home against Bologna, despite losing defender Pawel Dawidowicz to a red card just 13 minutes in. That was a stepping stone to build confidence for the season ahead. It was lacking following their Coppa Italia elimination at the hands of Cremonese.

To secure a win, both teams will need their attack to click into gear, as none of the forwards hit the ground running on the opening weekend. Lecce have to make better use of the ball in attack and hope that striker Gianluca Lapadula’s Serie A experience will stand them in good stead against a side like Hellas Verona. The hosts will not feature Biagio Meccariello, Riccardo Fiamozzi or Simone Lo Faso, who are still nursing injuries, joined by suspended Diego Farias after his red card at San Siro.

Verona can afford to be more adventurous this time after ensuring a point in their last outing. The Gialloblu were saved by midfielder Miguel Veloso’s free kick. They will be without Samuel Di Carmine, midfielder Emmanuel Agyeman Badu and left back Alessandro Crescenzi, while Dawidowicz is suspended following his early dismissal.

Sassuolo vs Sampdoria

MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @9:45pm

Eusebio Di Francesco faces his former club and is already under pressure, as Sampdoria and Sassuolo both lost their opening games.

It will be an emotional return for Di Francesco, who helped the Neroverdi earn their first ever promotion to Serie A in 2013, followed by a sixth-place finish and Europa League run in 2016. Under Di Francesco, young strikers Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza blossomed, while his engaging, attacking football earned him a move to Roma.

At Sampdoria, Di Francesco is expected to stick with his favourite 4-3-3 formation, although following last week’s defeat at the hands of Lazio, the 49-year-old will have to reflect, his players displaying various technical errors and unable to react after conceding the first goal.

The Blucerchiati’s problems lie however not only in tactical organization, but also in the rumours regarding the imminent sale of the club to a group of investors led by former player Gianluca Vialli. Hopefully, the unrest around the club won’t last long and the talented team will be able to focus on their performance.

Roberto De Zerbi has gathered under his management one of the youngest teams in Serie A, with an average age of 25 years. De Zerbi himself is the youngest Coach in the Italian top flight, but has already attracted praise for his agile style of play.

The Neroverdi will head into this match without Brazilian left-back Rogerio and captain Francesco Magnanelli, both sidelined with injuries, while veteran striker Alessandro Matri will only be available for a place on the bench. Sampdoria’s only missing player will be Gonzalo Maroni, currently undergoing physiotherapy after a sprained ankle in the Coppa Italia.

Udinese vs Parma

Dercia Arena, Udine

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @9:45pm

Optimism at Udinese will have grown after a surprising home victory over Milan, while Parma only narrowly fell to title holders Juventus.

Coach Roberto D’Aversa he felt that his men should’ve had a draw after their second half display. He was impressed particularly with the physical condition of the players, which could certainly come into play in what is likely to be a hard-fought game in Udine.

Igor Tudor would have been delighted with his team’s very determined and compact display against a toothless Milan and will be looking to secure two home victories in a row going into the international break.

Brazilian Rodrigo Becao grabbed the winner and put in a fantastic display in defence, so he will be looking to continue his promising start to life in Serie A by providing another clean sheet for his side.

With transfer uncertainty surrounding star man Rodrigo De Paul and a move to Fiorentina mooted, it casts doubt on whether he will actually start this one or even be at the club.

Hidde Ter Avest is unavailable for Udinese and Juraj Kucka is a doubt for the Gialloblu. Coincidentally the two clubs have just completed transfer business this week with 21-year-old left back Giuseppe Pezzella joining Parma from Udinese on loan with obligation to buy.

For Parma, exciting wide man Yann Karamoh is expected to get the nod rather than Yann Kulusevski, joining Roberto Inglese and Gervinho in attack.

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