Napoli vs Atalanta
Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Wednesday, 30-10-2019 @9pm
This is a head-to-head for third place and Atalanta are arguably the form team in Serie A right now, whereas Napoli are stuttering.
When Juventus and Inter both dropped points, the opportunity was there to close in on the top two. Only Atalanta took it, smashing 10-man Udinese 7-1 to set a new Serie A record in the era of three points for a win of 28 goals scored in the opening nine rounds. The fact they achieved this without injured top scorer from last season Duvan Zapata is even more extraordinary.
It’s not just about goals, as Atalanta have won four of their last five Serie A games, drawing only 3-3 with Lazio after taking a 3-0 lead and taking their foot of the gas. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men enjoy the idea of being in the Champions League for the first time ever, but make no mistake, their focus is on domestic issues and it’s working.
Napoli, on the other hand, are finding it more difficult to balance the two tournaments, knowing full well that more is expected from them in Europe under Carlo Ancelotti. The 3-2 thriller away to RB Salzburg was followed by a disappointing draw at SPAL and the missed opportunity to close on the leaders. In fact, it saw them slip even further behind Atalanta and they need a win on Wednesday to get at least back on level terms in third place.
There was more bad news, with a serious knee ligament injury ending Kevin Malcuit’s campaign. He joins Elseid Hysaj, Mario Rui and Kostas Manolas on the treatment table, leaving a serious shortage of defenders. Ancelotti refuses to explain why Faouzi Ghoulam has not been picked, even in these difficult times, amid reports of a rift with the coach.
If anything, he has an abundance of options upfront, where Dries Mertens, Arkadiusz Milik, Hirving Lozano and Fernando Llorente all clamour for two places, while Lorenzo Insigne as captain isn’t even sure of his spot on the wing.
Atalanta boss Gasperini likes to keep a striker on the bench to shake things up in the second half and Luis Muriel is the ideal candidate. It’s not so easy when Duvan Zapata is absent, but we could again see Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic supported by Ruslan Malinovskyi, the intriguing Ukraine international.
History doesn’t bode well for the Partenopei, because Napoli have lost each of their last three Serie A games played on a Wednesday, scoring only one goal.
Only Manchester City (12) have won more away fixtures in the top five European leagues than Atalanta (10) in 2019.
Cagliari vs Bologna
Serdegna Arena, Cagliari
Cagliari are making a beeline for Europe thanks to 15 points in a seven-round unbeaten run, but Bologna got back to winning ways too.
The Sardinians are the breakout side of the tournament so far, as after a stuttering start with defeats to Brescia and Inter, they have been more or less unstoppable. The 1-0 victory away to Napoli and 1-1 draw at Roma were the highlights that propelled them into joint sixth place with Lazio.
Bologna had been in something of a crisis, as the absence of coach Sinisa Mihajlovic during chemotherapy – and he is back in hospital now for the third course – was starting to take its toll. In truth, the results didn’t reflect the performances, with very narrow defeats to Roma and Juventus, but the 2-1 win over Sampdoria was a much-needed morale-booster. It was their first victory since September 15, ending a run of two points from five rounds.
Cagliari miss the usual suspects, Leonardo Pavoletti and Alessio Cragno, but Radja Nainggolan is starting to find his feet behind strikers Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone.
Rodrigo Palacio ran his socks off and scored a goal in the victory with Samp, so the veteran could be given a rest in this midweek round, allowing Federico Santander to lead the line and Nicola Sansone in support.
Bologna have won only one of their last 11 Serie A trips to Cagliari, 3-0 in October 2013, along with five draws and as many defeats.
Juventus vs Genoa
Allianz Stadium, Torino
Wednesday, 30-10-2019 @11pm
Juventus stumbled and got away with it, as their Serie A leadership remains intact, but can’t risk another setback against a revitalised Genoa.
The Bianconeri were held to a 1-1 draw away to Lecce, but Inter and Napoli also played stalemates, allowing them to remain clear at the top of the table. Much was made of the fact they failed to capture the victory when Cristiano Ronaldo was left at home to rest, but he’ll be back in the starting XI and raring to go in Turin. It remains to be seen if he’ll be accompanied by Paulo Dybala or Gonzalo Higuain.
There is also mystery over the trequartista role, because Federico Bernardeschi has not been doing well filling in for the injured Aaron Ramsey. Miralem Pjanic limped off during the Lecce game and should be rested, with Douglas Costa, Marko Pjaca and Giorgio Chiellini also still sidelined.
Rodrigo Bentancur should take Pjanic’s place in the centre of midfield, with Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi battling for a place alongside Sami Khedira. Daniele Rugani and Merih Demiral are champing at the bit if Leonardo Bonucci or Matthijs de Ligt are given the evening off.
Genoa are a team reborn after sacking coach Aurelio Andreazzoli and bringing in Thiago Motta, whose only previous management experience is with the PSG youth team. He inspired them to a 3-1 comeback victory over Brescia, making history in the process, as for the first time all three substitutes scored for one Serie A team.
Considering the success of Christian Kouame and Goran Pandev off the bench, they should be in the starting XI with Andrea Pinamonti, while Kevin Agudelo hopes to again make an impact during the second half. Thiago Motta initially set his men out in a three-man defence with Ivan Radovanovic pulled back, but fairly quickly shifted to 4-3-3.
Domenico Criscito, Marko Pajac, Stefano Sturaro and Andrea Favilli remain out of action. Paolo Ghiglione and Davide Biraschi are in a duel for the right-back role.
Juve have won only one of their last four Serie A meetings with Genoa when they were top of the table, 4-0 in April 2017 interrupting a draw and two defeats.
Lazio vs Torino
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Wednesday, 30-10-2019 @11pm
Lazio took some of the pressure off with victory against Fiorentina and host a Torino side with Walter Mazzarri on the edge.
There are reports this might be Mazzarri’s final game on the Toro bench, although technically he won’t be on the touchline on Wednesday evening. He has become the first Serie A coach to receive a touchline ban for accumulation of five yellow cards in just nine rounds, so assistant manager Nicolò Frustalupi will be barking out the orders.
Simone Inzaghi had also faced suggestions of an imminent dismissal following defeats to Inter, CFR Cluj and Celtic, but squeezing past Fiorentina 2-1 at the Stadio Franchi in contentious circumstances took some of the pressure off.
The same cannot be said for Toro, who managed two points in the last four rounds. Their away record is particularly poor, losing at Udinese, Parma and Sampdoria in recent weeks, so it does not bode well for the Stadio Olimpico visit.
Denis Vavro is suspended for Lazio, although he was unlikely to feature anyway, while Lucas Leiva is not 100 percent fit and could make way for Marco Parolo. The other usual doubts will go down to the wire, as Felipe Caicedo and Joaquin Correa battle to support Ciro Immobile, with Adam Marusic challenging Manuel Lazzari for a place on the right-wing.
Kevin Bonifazi is the only injury absentee for Torino, as Alex Berenguer should return to the bench. Simone Zaza scored as a substitute last week and is likely to partner Andrea Belotti, sending Iago Falque and Simone Verdi back to the list of substitutes.
Toro have only won one of their last 15 Serie A visits to Lazio, 3-1 in 2017, along with eight draws and six defeats.
Sampdoria vs Lecce
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Wednesday, 30-10-2019 @11pm
Claudio Ranieri’s arrival hasn’t done too much to bolster Sampdoria, but Lecce are gaining confidence after holding Milan and Juventus.
The Blucerchiati sacked Eusebio Di Francesco for losing six of his opening seven Serie A games, so Ranieri was drafted in and debuted with a goalless draw against Roma. The momentum stopped there, as they faltered in a 2-1 defeat to Bologna that leaves them propping up the table with only four points.
Lecce are newly-promoted to the top flight, but are currently out of the drop zone – albeit by only one point – thanks to back-to-back draws with Milan and leaders Juve. That 1-1 draw with the Bianconeri was their first point at the Stadio Via del Mare, as so far the Salentini have done considerably better on their travels.
Karol Linetty is still out injured for Samp, while Manolo Gabbiadini is the favourite to start alongside Fabio Quagliarella rather than Federico Bonazzoli, seeing as the ex-Southampton forward scored a stunning goal against Bologna last week.
Lecce lost Diego Farias for approximately three weeks, so Gianluca Lapadula is expected to step in to the front line, with Filippo Falco pushing for a way back in. Andrea La Mantia is another candidate, in case Marco Mancosu needs a rest.
The last time Samp were bottom of the Serie A table after nine rounds was back in 1972-73.
Sassuolo vs Fiorentina
MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia
Wednesday, 30-10-2019 @11pm
Fiorentina lost their six-match unbeaten record and Franck Ribery in defeat to Lazio, so are forced into changes against Sassuolo.
The Viola had found their rhythm with three wins and as many draws, but Vincenzo Montella picking the same starting XI for the seventh game in a row proved too much. They looked tired and disjointed, with Ribery particularly out of sorts.
Not only did the Frenchman rant and rave for a good 10 minutes on the touchline to protest being substituted, he then shoved the linesman twice after the final whistle. Caught on camera and with a clear report from the officials, Ribery was handed a three-match Serie A ban.
It means Montella is forced to change and there are different options to partner Federico Chiesa. Kevin-Prince Boateng is the favourite to face his former club, although Dusan Vlahovic is another strong contender.
Ribery isn’t the only one missing, as Luca Ranieri is also suspended for one game, while Martin Caceres and Pol Lirola both went off injured against Lazio. Giuseppe Pezzella could move to the centre of a three-man defence, using Lorenzo Venuti and Dalbert on the wings.
Sassuolo took some of the pressure off coach Roberto De Zerbi with a victory over Hellas Verona, ending their run of three consecutive defeats. A single long-range goal from Filip Djuricic proved enough at the Stadio Bentegodi on Friday evening.
Francesco Magnanelli is suspended, with Rogerio, Mehdi Bourabia, Luca Mazzitelli, Vlad Chiriches, Gian Marco Ferrari, Alessandro Tripaldelli and Gianluca Pegolo all struggling with fitness.
Fiorentina have not won a Serie A fixture away to Sassuolo since a 3-1 result in February 2014, followed by three draws and a defeat.
Udinese vs Roma
Dacia Arena, Udine
Wednesday, 30-10-2019 @11pm
Udinese are still reeling from an historic 7-1 defeat to Atalanta and host a Roma side coping surprisingly well with their injury crisis.
Friulani technical director Pierpaolo Marino said his team and coach Igor Tudor “ought to be ashamed” of a 7-1 loss, even if they were down to 10 men for an hour. They had incredibly even taken the lead in Bergamo before the complete and total capitulation, including a Luis Muriel hat-trick. Even more remarkable, they conceded more goals in one afternoon than throughout the previous eight Serie A rounds (six), boasting until then the best defence in the division.
Nicholas Opoku was sent off in that game while giving away a penalty and is therefore suspended, with Jens Stryger-Larsen still injured. Ex-Roma youth product Stefano Okaka was on target and keeps his place upfront, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be partnered by Kevin Lasagna or Ilija Nestorovski. It’s a toss-up between Walace and Mato Jajalo in midfield.
Roma continue to deal with an astonishing list of absentees, yet keep putting in solid performances and achieving good results. They would’ve beaten Borussia Monchengladbach had it not been for some shocking refereeing from Willie Collum, while the Giallorossi managed to beat Milan 2-1 on Sunday evening.
Leonardo Spinazzola limped off during that game, so may well be rested as a precaution, with Alessandro Florenzi coming back in at right-back. Cengiz Under can also return to the bench after a long lay-off, with Javier Pastore given some much-needed rest in favour of Nicolò Zaniolo in a more central support role, with Justin Kluivert back after suspension.
Edin Dzeko has to do overtime with his protective mask for a fractured cheekbone and orbital bone, as Nikola Kalinic, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bryan Cristante, Amadou Diawara and Davide Zappacosta are all long-term injury cases.
This means Gianluca Mancini is confirmed as a makeshift midfielder alongside Jordan Veretout. How much longer can these Roma players keep the team afloat with a match every three days?
These teams have not shared the spoils in Serie A since March 2013, followed by 11 Roma victories and one for Udinese.
-AC Milan vs SPAL-Thursday, 31-10-2019 @11pm