Fiorentina vs Juventus
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Saturday, 14-04-2019 @4pm
Serie A returns after the international break and it all starts with the biggest game of the weekend, a grudge match between Fiorentina and Juventus.
The hosts are in desperate need of points, as despite all the fanfare of the new owner and players, the Tuscans have lost both their opening two games. La Vecchia Signora, on the other hand, have picked up where they left off, by claiming maximum points so far this season.
This match is felt keenly by the fans of Fiorentina, with an almost 40-year bitterness towards the Piedmont side, so Coach Vincenzo Montella will know his side need to put in a performance on Saturday evening. Following the failure to collect any points, the 45-year old had been under pressure, but President Rocco Commisso dismissed suggestions of a sacking as “fake news.”
On transfer deadline day, the club signed three prospects who will be hoping to make their debut in this highly charged clash. Forward Pedro and midfielder Bobby Duncan came in from Fluminense and Liverpool respectively, while right-winger Rachid Ghezzal joined from Leicester City.
Franck Ribery has been working hard in training and could potentially be in the starting XI. The Frenchman has never lost against Juventus, with three wins and two draws for Bayern Munich in the Champions League, even if he never actually scored past them.
On the other side of the coin, Maurizio Sarri is back from his bout of pneumonia and will take a full part in Juve’s game for the first time since his appointment this summer. It will be intriguing to see just what starting line-up the 60-year old employs this weekend, especially as the Champions League starts next week.
In their last encounter against Napoli, they ran riot taking a 3-0 lead, before being pegged back to 3-3 and eventually getting the points thanks to a Kalidou Koulibaly own goal. With captain Giorgio Chiellini injured and out until at least March, Sarri will have to rely on Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt, who both looked shaky in the last match. Having made some tough decisions as far as their European squad is concerned, will Sarri start Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic, both of whom were left off the Champions League list?
Given this game is coming off the heels of the international break, the tactics from both Coaches will be interesting. Expect Montella to play slightly conservatively, as not only needing to get something from this game, he knows if his team is too open, they will be picked apart by the defending champions.
Sarri on the other hand, should send his team out to attack as usual, but keeping one eye on Europe, so he may rotate a bit and take full advantage of the depth at his disposal.
Juve could make it three consecutive Serie A victories in Florence for the first time since 1952. The Viola have won this fixture only twice in the last 20 years, but the more worrying statistic is the fact they are one off equalling their 17-match top flight winless streak from 1970-71.
Napoli vs Sampdoria
Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Saturday, 14-09-2019 @7pm
Napoli have injury problems to deal with in attack as they host Capocannoniere Fabio Quagliarella’s Sampdoria.
The Partenopei have been sitting with the disappointment of almost completing a miraculous comeback at the Allianz Juventus Stadium for two weeks, after a rare defensive error from Kalidou Koulibaly saw Juventus earn a late winner when the two sides met on August 31. The fight shown by Carlo Ancelotti’s men to battle back from 3-0 down is seen as a positive by many Napoli fans, and since the loss, President Aurelio De Laurentiis has brought in one last signing in former Serie A champion Fernando Llorente.
The Spaniard joins Napoli on a free transfer, offering Ancelotti a solid option coming off the bench. He might be needed sooner rather than later, because Arkadiusz Milik is still out injured with Lorenzo Insigne and Eljif Elmas not 100 per cent fit either.
Napoli have won 12 of their last 16 matches against the Blucerchiati, drawing the Genoese side three times and losing once. What a loss it was, though.
When Sampdoria hosted Napoli last season, they came away with an emphatic 3-0 victory highlighted by former Napoli striker and 2018-19 Capocannoniere Fabio Quagliarella’s amazing backheel goal (which is was a contender for the Puskas Award). Despite that, the Sampdoria we see now may find it difficult to take points away from the Stadio San Paolo.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s time at Samp hasn’t borne any fruitful moments as of yet. Sampdoria lost their season opener against Lazio 3-0 and followed up the loss with a 4-1 defeat away to Sassuolo. The only positive from their loss to the Neroverdi is that Quagliarella was able to open his account, one he’ll be looking to add to this Saturday.
With unrest from Napoli fans in regard to the defensive frailty currently shown by their 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s possible we could see Ancelotti revert back to his favored 4-4-2 from last season.
For Di Francesco’s side, we’ll likely see the former Roma manager’s preferred 4-3-3 once again. Ronaldo Vieira is suspended, while Gaston Ramirez and Gianluca Caprari are expected to flank Quagliarella.
Although both sides enter this contest off the back of a loss, the quality shown by Napoli on the offensive end in their defeat could be too much for a Sampdoria side still adapting to a new Coach.
Samp have lost nine of their last 11 Serie A visits to the San Paolo, drawing twice since their 2-0 victory back in 1998.
Inter Milan vs Udinese
Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan
Saturday, 14-09-2019 @9:45pm
Inter will be looking to make it three wins out of three to start the season and they host unpredictable Udinese and Alexis Sanchez could debut against his old club.
Mauro Icardi departed on loan to Paris Saint-Germain once it was clear his place in the Inter line-up was no longer a guarantee with the signings of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.
For Antonio Conte’s side, it will be back to business as usual after the international break, and they will be happy to have some of their defenders healthy once again. Centre-back Stefan de Vrij may be fit enough to return from injury, while Diego Godin is in line to make his first start for the Nerazzurri after joining from Atletico Madrid as a free agent in the summer.
Alexis Sanchez is looking for his debut after cutting international duty short to work with Conte in training and it would be fitting to return to Serie A where his career began, with Udinese. However, it’ll take something special to push Lautaro Martinez out of the starting XI after his Argentina hat-trick.
Udinese will be playing their first away match of the season after having mixed results, as an opening win over Milan was followed by a 3-1 defeat to Parma.
It is possible that new signing Ken Sema could make his first start, after the Swedish attacker joined on loan from Watford. He’ll be looking to provide pace on the wing for Igor Tudor’s side, supporting Rodrigo De Paul and Kevin Lasagna.
Stefano Okaka is back from Watford on a permanent basis and eager to make his mark.
Udinese have won just two of the last 11 meetings with Inter, but both were at San Siro in December 2014 and December 2017.
Genoa vs Atalanta
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sunday, 15-09-2019 @1:30pm
Genoa have been the surprise of the season so far and aim to trip up last year’s undoubted stars Atalanta, who might be distracted by their Champions League debut.
Serie A returns with what should be another entertaining encounter at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. The Rossoblu have started the season well with a thrilling 3-3 draw away to Roma in Week 1, then an impressive 2-1 victory against a strengthened Fiorentina side.
Atalanta on the other hand have had a mixed start, being on either side of five-goal thrillers with firstly a narrow 2-3 away victory at SPAL (fighting back from 2-0 down) and then a disappointing 3-2 reverse defeat at home to Torino.
La Dea will be looking to achieve more consistency as the season goes on, with the race for fourth spot hotting up already and expected to be even more intense than last year, coupled with the added commitment and exertions of this year’s Champions League. They open that tournament with an historic trip to Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday.
Stefano Sturaro and Francesco Cassata are both unavailable for the hosts, while Timothy Castagne continues to recover from his knee injury.
Simon Kjaer could start in Coach Gian Piero Gasperini’s three-man defence after his return to Italy on loan from Sevilla in what was a bizarre replacement for Martin Skrtel in one of the most short-lived transfers in Italian football history, arriving from and then returning to Turkey within three weeks.
Luis Muriel will probably be sacrificed and drop to the bench despite some fine international form for Colombia against Brazil to make room for free-scoring international teammate Duvan Zapata. It’s all about squad rotation now, something Atalanta are simply not accustomed to.
Duvan Zapata’s cousin is Cristian Zapata, who has started his Genoa career very well with a headed goal against Fiorentina. The veteran is beginning to form a good defensive base alongside captain Domenico Criscito and Cristian Romero.
Atalanta have won six of their last seven Serie A meetings with Genoa. The Bergamo boys are nothing if not entertaining, as they have both scored and conceded in their last six top flight games.
Brescia vs Bologna
Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia
Sunday, 15-09-2019 @4pm
Brescia host their first Serie A match since May 22, 2011, with Bologna visiting the revamped Stadio Mario Rigamonti.
Bologna will be without Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic on the touchline, who has started the second round of chemotherapy as treatment for leukaemia, as they look to build on a promising start to the season.
Brescia come into the game with three points from their opening two rounds. An opening day victory courtesy of an Alfredo Donnarumma penalty against Cagliari was followed up by a 1-0 defeat at Milan, a surprisingly narrow result at San Siro.
Bruno Martella, Emanuele Ndoj and Giangiacomo Magnani are all doubtful through injuries, whilst Mario Balotelli is serving the final two games of his suspension leftover from Ligue 1. Donnarumma scored 16 goals in 16 Serie B home matches last season, so will relish being back at the Rigamonti.
A stoppage-time winner from Roberto Soriano gave Bologna a deserved 1-0 victory over SPAL last time out. Managing 23 shots and wasting a number of good opportunities, they will need to be more clinical in front of goal this time out if they are to rectify their terrible away form stretching back over the last two seasons.
Coupled with their opening day 1-1 draw to Hellas Verona, it has left Bologna in need of a boost.
The only injury concern for Bologna is defender Danilo, who isn’t expected back until late September. It means Japan international Takehiro Tomiyasu should move to center-back, which is his favoured position. Gary Medel can again pull the midfield strings with Mattia Destro the favourite to lead the attack.
Bologna have not gone unbeaten in the first three rounds of the Serie A season since 2002-03.
Parma vs Cagliari
Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma
Sunday, 15-09-2019 @4pm
Deadline day signings Matteo Darmian and Giovanni Simeone are expected to make their debuts for Parma and Cagliari respectively.
The Ducali lost their opening home fixture to champions Juventus by a lone goal, then fought back for an impressive 3-1 victory at Udinese.
Swedish Under-21 international Dejan Kulusevski has made a good impression since arriving on loan from Atalanta, registering two assists in Udine, but could make way for Yann Karamoh. Gervinho continues to be a threat down the left side of attack with already a goal to his name.
Darmian was a surprise purchase for Parma and makes his return to Serie A from Manchester United, expected to immediately slot into the starting XI at the Stadio Tardini.
Despite significant summer investments, opponents Cagliari are yet to earn a point after losing their first two games. They recorded defeat against Brescia and suffered a 2-1 loss to Inter at home.
Coach Rolando Maran had to transform his vision of the side after top scorer Leonardo Pavoletti was ruled out for six months by a knee injury. Deadline day signing Giovanni Simeone should make his debut and Cagliari need the former Fiorentina striker to get his scoring boots on straight away.
To make matters worse, Radja Nainggolan is also ruled out by injury, joining Fabrizio Cacciatore, Paolo Faragò and Alessio Cragno in the stands.
Cagliari haven’t beaten Parma at the Tardini in Serie A since January 2011, managing two goalless draws and three defeats.
SPAL vs Lazio
Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara
Sunday, 15-09-2019 @4pm
Lazio are still raging after rattling the woodwork repeatedly in their Rome Derby draw and want to take it out on pointless SPAL.
Leonardo Semplici’s campaign got off to a rocky start, fumbling a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 with Atalanta, then conceding a last-gasp Bologna goal through Roberto Soriano. That result was fair, considering a couple of good saves from Etrit Berisha, two goal-line clearances and the crossbar kept SPAL in the game until slack defending in stoppages.
SPAL should field Federico Di Francesco and Andrea Petagna upfront, as both scored against Atalanta in the first game of the season. Alessandro Murgia was added on to the €10m that Lazio paid for Manuel Lazzari over the summer. The midfielder could have his second outing for SPAL against his former club, but is likely to start on the bench.
Mohamed Fares is out for five months with a torn ACL and Nenad Tomovic is challenging Thiago Cionek for a spot in the three-man defence.
Lazio drew the Derby della Capitale, as Luis Alberto found the narrowest of tunnels for the ball to squeeze its way through three Roma defenders and ’keeper Pau Lopez, thus ruling out Aleksandr Kolarov’s penalty. The game will be remembered for both teams being denied by the woodwork on six occasions, four of them going against Lazio.
Immobile comes fresh from scoring for Italy in their 2-1 away win against Finland, ending his two-year Azzurri drought. Francesco Acerbi also featured in Tampere, in what was his fourth senior cap. Both players are in form and are certain to start against SPAL. It will be exciting to see how winger Manuel Lazzari will fare in his first return to the Stadio Paolo Mazza.
Luiz Felipe is in doubt, as he was injured against Roma. Jorge Silva is sidelined by muscular problems and Jordan Lukaku is still suffering from inflammation to the knee.
Lazio have conceded in seven of their last eight Serie A meetings with SPAL.
Roma vs Sassuolo
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Sunday, 15-09-2019 @7pm
Paulo Fonseca is still looking for his first Roma victory after two draws and could start Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling against Sassuolo.
The Giallorossi have started their campaign with eventful stalemates against Genoa and Lazio, but hope the fact Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov and Mkhitaryan scored on international duty will help boost confidence.
The week off from the league proved to be a problematic for Roma, as one of their star players Cengiz Under picked up an injury while on duty with Turkey and will be out for six weeks. Alongside Under, winger Diego Perotti and full-back Davide Zappacosta are going to be on the treatment table for a while.
On the bright side, left back Leonardo Spinazzola and French midfielder Jordan Veretout both return from injury, hoping to make their league debut in their new Giallorossi colours. Also looking to potentially make his debut is Chris Smalling, whose recent arrival from Manchester United has raised numerous questions about the defender’s quality.
Armenian captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan could not have had a better build-up, as the midfielder on loan from Arsenal scored twice on international duty against Edin Dzeko’s Bosnia.
Only once before in their history have Roma started the season with three straight stalemates, in 1984-85, and they finished that campaign in seventh place.
Sassuolo started the season with a hard fought 2-1 loss on the road to Torino, but Roberto De Zerbi’s men worked on their flaws and came back in the second week with a dominant performance against ex-Roma Coach Eusebio Di Francesco’s Sampdoria to win 4-1 on the back of an incredible hat-trick from main man Domenico Berardi.
Captain Francesco Magnanelli, Brazilian full-back Rogerio and Moroccan midfielder Mehdi Bourabia will be skipping this match with slight injuries and will open up space for new acquisitions such as German-born full back Jeremy Toljan and Greek defender Giorgos Kyriakopoulos to get some minutes in with their new club.
Roma are the only team in Serie A that Sassuolo have not been able to beat in at least three attempts, with seven losses and five draws.
Hellas Verona vs AC Milan
Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona
Sunday, 15-09-2019 @9:45pm
Marco Giampaolo is still struggling to forge his new Milan identity and faces a tricky trip to Hellas Verona, who are unbeaten since promotion from Serie B.
Hellas have been a surprise package under Ivan Juric so far, holding out for a draw against Bologna even when down to 10 men for almost 80 minutes and then securing victory away to Lecce in a relegation six-pointer. Matteo Pessina came off the bench and within minutes had snatched the winner at the Stadio Via del Mare.
Juric will hope his side can keep their unbeaten run going, but will be without the services of forward Samuel Di Carmine, while Alessandro Crescenzi and Emmanuel Badu face fitness tests.
Milan, on the other hand, scraped their way to a 1-0 victory at home to Brescia before the break that relieved some of the pressure on new Coach Giampaolo. Hakan Calhanoglu’s early goal sealed the win for the Diavolo and gave them their first points of the season after they lost 1-0 to Udinese on the opening day.
Giampaolo tinkered with his formation and personnel in that defeat to the Zebrette, then returned to a more settled and balanced team in that home win over Brescia. Ismael Bennacer should again start in midfield, but Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao aren’t deemed ready yet, so Samu Castillejo is expected to retain his place in attack. Calhanoglu is the favourite for midfield ahead of Lucas Paqueta.
Mattia Caldara is still on the treatment table and is a long-term injury absentee, while both Pepe Reina and Lucas Biglia are close to making a return.
Expect this game to be a huge test for the Milanese side’s top four credentials, as this is precisely the type of fixture they will be expected to win if they hope to make a return to Europe’s top competition.
It is also a very daunting game, as Milan famously lost the Scudetto twice with a defeat here in 1973 and 1990, leading it to be nicknamed ‘Fatal Verona.’
Milan have lost their last two trips to the Bentegodi, 2-1 in April 2016 and 3-0 in December 2017.
Torino vs Lecce
Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Torino
Monday, 16-09-2019 @9:45pm
Torino are confident of maintaining their perfect start to the season with a third straight victory over newly-promoted Lecce.
Alongside Juventus and Inter, Walter Mazzarri’s side make up the trio of teams who have won their first two matches, having beaten Sassuolo and Atalanta. Meanwhile, visitors Lecce have yet to find the back of the net this season and are one of five teams still to claim any points.
Having signed Simone Verdi in the final minutes of the transfer window, the Napoli loanee is expected to make his first start for the Granata. Centre-back Nicolas N’Koulou was reportedly looking to push through a move to Roma and even requested to be left out of the Torino squad. Reports have suggested he is willing to speak with the club to regain his place, however it is unlikely he will feature on Monday night. Full-back Cristian Ansaldi will also miss out through injury.
Fabio Liverani’s outfit have endured a poor start to the season and whilst they were expected to be beaten by Inter in the opening weekend, the home loss to fellow promoted team Verona could prove very costly indeed. Deadline day signing Khouma Babacar is expected to start on the bench, while Simone Lo Faso, Gianelli Imbula and Cristian Dell’Orco are unfit to play. Diego Farias returns from suspension after his red card against Inter.
It is difficult to see anything other than a win for Torino, as they have scored over two goals in eight of their previous nine home matches, whilst Lecce have yet to find the net this season.
Torino have scored in each of their last 11 matches against Lecce in Serie A and have only lost once when hosting the Salentini, 2-1 in 2000, along with four wins and two draws.