Just a pair of juicy match-ups on deck this week, while the top teams will try to take advantage of cozy fixtures on paper.
Napoli-Empoli: the Partenopei were not super sharp versus Roma, they salvaged a draw but could have probably done more if they did not put themselves in the predicament of having to come back. It was the first time they dropped points at home. Empoli have not won since the first game, but they certainly put up a fight against Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo decided to win it. They have lost six times so far. Dries Mertens definitely has it going now with four goals in the last five appearances, Lorenzo Insigne has been a little banged up lately but he is having a great season and Fabian Ruiz’s stocks are certainly trending upwards. Carlo Ancelotti could rotate the squad ahead of the PSG clash, so there could be some unusual contributors like Kevin Malcuit, Marko Rog, Adam Ounas or Amadou Diawara. Arek Milik and Piotr Zielinski could use a goal since they have gone cold. Francesco Caputo continues to lead the guests scoring-wise and recently Miha Zajc and Salih Ucan have chipped in. They have been generally been vulnerable defensively, but they do not renounce to playing proactively.
Inter-Genoa: the Nerazzurri have grabbed six wins in a row and more importantly they have been increasingly convincingly in the past weeks, culminating in the shellacking they handed to Lazio on Monday. Mauro Icardi is en fuego and it looks like Matias Vecino will have more offensive opportunities with Radja Nainggolan out. Joao Mario and Borja Valero filled in for the Ninja, but they are not great fantasy options. Ivan Perisic and Matteo Politano have showed some positive signs, but Icardi is scoring for everybody right now. Here too some substitutes could come in and there are some good ones like Balde Keita and Lautaro Martinez, while Antonio Candreva has generally been active when called upon. Genoa fired Davide Ballardini for defensive deficiencies, but there have not been significant improvements on that front, since they have conceded five goals in three games. On the other hand, Krzysztof Piatek has been shut out in all three. At least they tied with Juventus and almost again with Milan on the road and have looked a little more solid overall. Christian Kouame has looked very spry and Daniel Bessa is getting more playing time now and they could be longshot bets for this week.
Fiorentina-Roma: probably the most well-balanced match-up of the slate. La Viola has been unable to shake off the road woes so far, which contributed to their recent slowdown, as they have prevailed just once in their last five games. They are still undefeated at home though. Roma are more unpredictable: they almost beat Napoli away after being shocked by SPAL at home. They had three victories in a row before this stretch. Stefano Pioli is trying to mix things up in the midfield and in the attack because he is not getting much from players not named Federico Chiesa, Jordan Veretout and Marco Benassi. Giovanni Simeone, Marko Pjaca, Kevin Mirallas and Gerson have been way subpar so far. As for the Giallorossi, Edin Dzeko, Stephan El Shaarawy, Cengiz Under and Lorenzo Pellegrini have been steady forces in light of the injuries to Javier Pastore, Diego Perotti and Justin Kluivert. The last one could be an X-factor this season, but he has yet to earn Eusebio Di Francesco’s full trust. Bryan Cristante has lost almost all his fantasy cred since he is playing in a more defensive position in the Italian Capital.
Juventus-Cagliari: Cristiano Ronaldo spared the Old Lady blushes in Empoli and for the second time in a row the Bianconeri were not on point when facing a minnow. The Sardinians have picked up seven points in the last three games, taking advantage of some favorable home games, but they are generally pretty lousy on the road. While Paulo Dybala has done a lot of damage in Champions League, Ronaldo has scored most of the goals in Serie A. Mario Mandzukic is expected to return this week, while neither right winger has been particularly consistent so far. It could be time for Massimiliano Allegri to unleash Douglas Costa to recover him after a terrible start. After the return of Joao Pedro, Cagliari have found their ideal XI with the Brazilian as second-striker, Lucas Castro in the hole and Artur Ionita as box-to-box and they are all comfortable in these spots. They are also doing a terrific job feeding Leonardo Pavoletti, who has found the net in three straight matches and five times in total this season.
Sampdoria-Torino: a duel that could turn out to be relevant for the European race if they two team put together good steaks in the middle portion of the season. The Blucerchiati scored twice, but still came out empty at San Siro versus Milan and suffered their third loss of the season. The Granata have been defeated twice, by Roma and Napoli, and collected two wins and three draws in their last five showings. Riccardo Saponara snapped out of his lengthy slump and could be a better option than the up-and-down Gaston Ramirez as no.10, Fabio Quagliarella recently bagged a pretty one, while Gregorie Defrel’s form has stalled, having netted just one goal in the last seven games. However, Gianluca Caprari and especially Dawid Kownacki have not performed well enough to challenge him. Walter Mazzarri is in a similar spot, because, while Iago Falque has been helpful when healthy, Andrea Belotti and Simone Zaza have been unable to gain any momentum and have scored three goals combined, which obviously limits their ceiling. The midfielders, starting with Daniele Baselli, and the wing backs have picked up some of the slack, but they can not be reliable sources of goals for the whole season, so they desperately need the trident to catch fire if they want to aspire to something tasty.
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