The next round could be a little one-sided for the top clubs, but surprises are always around the corner in Serie A and there still a couple of juicy games on deck.
Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri prevailed in the always tense match-up with Milan, surviving a penalty but appearing pretty dominant overall. They have won in 11 of the first 12 games, setting a new Serie A-point record to start the season. SPAL looked a little better against Cagliari, but squandered a two-zip lead and had to settle for a tie. They had lost in six of the previous seven fixtures. Mario Mandzukic returned to the starting XI with an immediate goal, then Cristiano Ronaldo bagged another one. The duo and Juan Cuadrado did not play during the international break, so they will be ready to rumble here and could be better choices than Douglas Costa, who has been underwhelming to say the least, and Paulo Dybala, who has done almost all of his scoring in Champions League. Their midfield is pretty banged up, so they will have to rely heavily on the attackers and on the fullbacks Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro. As for the Estensi, Manuel Lazzari is always a force to be reckoned with and is coming off a two-assist performance. Mirco Antenucci broke out of his slump by putting his name in the scoresheet in the past two games and Andrea Petagna has been reasonably prolific so far. Jasmin Kurtic should be all systems go after the break. The Old Lady has struggled to keep clean sheets so far, racking up just two at home.
Inter-Frosinone: after seven wins in a row, Inter came a cropper in Bergamo against a super Atalanta. Frosinone are sneakily surging as they have not lost in four games, drawing in thrice. Their defensive phase is certainly improving after a horrid start. Mauro Icardi is in a hot streak, Ivan Perisic looked good with Croatia but has not fared well in a while in Serie A, Matteo Politano did the same with Italy and he has been able to score here and here in the domestic league as well. Radja Nainggolan should be past his ankle injury by now and he was starting to become a big offensive factor prior to the ailment. Back-ups Lautaro Martinez and Balde Keita could get a shot but they have been unimpressive so far. The Ciociari’s trident has gelled and become a reference point, but this is obviously a challenging match-up for Joel Campbell, Daniel Ciofani and Camillo Ciano. Ciano missed the last game with a muscular injury and Campbell will return late from international duties, so their firepower could be very tempered here. Andrea Pinamonti has found a pair of pretty goals lately.
Napoli-Chievo: the Partenopei came up victorious in the mud fight in Genoa, keeping up with Juventus and distancing Inter. They have won in four of their last five games, netting a bunch of goals. Chievo stopped the bleeding after seven losses in a row by tying with Bologna, but Gian Piero Ventura still elected to resign and they brought in Domenico Di Carlo. Napoli are profiting from Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne’s stellar form: the Belgian striker had either a goal or an assist in the past four fixtures. Fabian Ruiz has recently emerged as their third fiddle since Piotr Zielinski, José Callejon and Marek Hamsik are not playing that great. The new Gialloblù coach could go back to the basics and try to deploy their three best players together, Emanuele Giaccherini, Valter Birsa and Mariusz Stepinski, but they are also dealing with a host of injuries. The Flying Donkeys have scored in just two road games so far and they have abysmal so far.
Lazio-Milan: the Biancocelesti are coming off their first tie of the season in Sassuolo, while the Rossoneri lost to Juventus before the break. Both teams so far have wobbled when going against better competition, coming up short basically every time, so it will be interesting to see what will happen when they will face each other. Simone Inzaghi is trying to recover Luis Alberto, but he did little in the last two starts. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has generally been more impactful, but certainly not a star like a year ago. So Ciro Immobile continue to shoulder a massive workload offensively, surprisingly helped by Marco Parolo, while Felipe Caicedo and Joaquin Correa are trying to make up for the subpar performances of their star teammates. Milan are incredibly depleted because of injuries, but they always have the right spirit. Patrick Cutrone will be spearhead the attack with Gonzalo Higuain suspended and he has been a good plug-and-play player in the past. Suso has been their leader as of late and more will be asked from Hakan Calhanoglu and Samu Castillejo now that Giacomo Bonaventura is likely out for the season. The Spaniard has had some flashes, while the Turk has been bad and banged up so far.
Genoa-Sampdoria: both teams are floundering coming into game, as they have lost three in a row, but the Derby della Lanterna is generally always fun and has the most Premier League-like atmosphere of any Italian match-up. Milan Juric is on thin ice but retained his job after the Napoli game: he has to find a way to get more meaningful touches to Krzysztof Piatek, who has been shut out during his tenure. Christian Kouame is flourishing and they have gotten some positive contributions from Romulo and Daniel Bessa. Sampdoria’s plunge is a little stunning because their defense, which was very stout at the beginning of the year, has suddenly turned into Swiss cheese and conceded 11 goals in the last three games. Even if Fabio Quagliarella has been productive, he certainly can not make up for that on his own. Similarly to Genoa, they need their leading scorer, Gregoire Defrel, to resume delivering. Riccardo Saponara and Gaston Ramirez have chipped in, but they are both pretty unreliable. In the wake of injuries and suspensions, Jakub Jankto could have an opportunity to turn his disappointing season around in a big spot.
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