After a thrilling set of Champions League matches which featured Cavani’s return to the San Paolo, another late goal by Inter, Roma’s key win in Russia and Ronaldo’s six pack celebration, Serie A is back with an intriguing set of matches. Here are some story lines to look out for this weekend
Will Napoli leave Marassi thinking they dodged a bullet with Piatek?
You know you are off to a great start in Serie A when your initial scoring streak gets you mentioned alongside the likes of Zico and Batistuta, but in the past few weeks Krzysztof Piatek has cooled off. You can chalk this to manager Ballardini inexplicably getting sacked, the higher caliber of opponents or a combination of the two, but regardless of the reason the Polish striker will be eager to showcase his skills to a club that has already expressed interest in him when Napoli travel to Liguria this weekend.
A few weeks ago, Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis stated that he had already spoken to both Piatek’s agent as well as Genoa about acquiring him in January for a reported fee of around 35 million, an amount Preziosi found to be too low. You have to wonder which of the two presidents will end up being disappointed that talks didn’t go any further…
Will an Atalanta striker challenge Inter’s impressive defense?
After a dreadful start to the season, Atalanta have won three in a row in large part thanks to a rotating cast of striker. Ilicic had a streak where he looked like the most unstoppable attacker in Serie A, Barrow continued to show why by the end of last season he was considered the next great Atalanta prospect and last week Zapata scored the game winner.
While these three would already be a more than adequate attack for a top tier Serie A team, there’s of course also captain Papu Gomez. Gasperini’s front line will now be tested by an Inter backline that is ready to challenge Juventus as the best in Calcio now that Vrsaljko is healthy. De Vrij and Skriniar look set to be an elite centerback combination for years to come, and while Miranda is starting to show his age, he’s still a very adequate rotation player now that Inter looks set to get out of the Champions League group stage.
Can Sampdoria’s defense stop the bleeding against Roma?
Just two Sundays ago, the blucerchiati headed into San Siro to face Milan with the best defense in Serie A- since then Giampaolo’s squad has given up seven goals, four of which came home against Torino- on the bright side they did Mancini a favor since they were able to get Belotti back on track with a brace.
Sampdoria will try to rekindle their form when they travel to Italy’s capital to face Roma- a team that has been widely inconsistent this season, especially up front. Hopefully for Giampaolo, Danish center back Joachim Andersen will regain some confidence after agreeing to an extension on Thursday, it’s safe to say Inter, who have already expressed interest in acquiring him, will hope to see some positive signs as well.
Is Perin ready to replace Szczesny?
Being the keeper for a dominating team comes with some perks- high salary, time to meditate since you aren’t likely to be tested often, a lot of exposure- but also the downside of not having many opportunities to shine to make up for some inevitable mistakes. This last example is part of the reason why we shouldn’t over react to Szczesny’s less than brilliant start to the season, but when you have a backup of Perin’s caliber, it’s normal for fans to start wondering if it’s time for a switch.
Last season Szczesny performed brilliantly in his first go around at Juventus, he answered all of the concerns on his ability to eventually replace Buffon- but now that he has the job, things haven’t gone as smoothly. In addition to competition from Perin, it also doesn’t help that his predecessor performed superbly against Napoli in the Champions League earlier this week.
Szczesny is expected to start at san Siro against Milan on Sunday night, and while it’s tempting to want to write about how Bonucci will be “greeted” by rossoneri fans, the Woj story lines has more intriguing implications down the road.
Can Pjaca get his season on track?
It feels like a life time ago that Milan and Juventus were competing to sign the Croatian international. I’m sure some of you remember Galliani trying to woo his agents at a dinner party despite Berlusconi not likely being willing to want to pay to acquire him, but since then Pjaca’s career has stalled.
Injuries and lack of playing time at Juventus certainly didn’t help, but his stint at Schalke didn’t work out, and despite all the hype on how great the trio with Chiesa and Simeone would work out, so far they have combined for 5 goals. While both Simeone and especially Chiesa have a proven track record at Fiorentina, manager Pioli has already been critical of Pjaca- on the bright side, he has an opportunity to turn it around when he faces Frosinone, who are tied with Genoa for the second worse defense in Serie A.