Round 8 sees a jam-packed schedule of Serie A fixtures coming our way out of the international break, with plenty of fascinating storylines to sort through.
Let’s break down what you should be watching for this weekend around Italy’s top flight.
Lazio, Atalanta and the charge for top four
As the current table stands, Juventus are back on top after their win over second place Inter, followed by Atalanta who are off to their best start in club history and Napoli. But, a simple assessment of the top end of the table tells us that we may be in for another dog fight for Europe, specifically for 4th place which has several suitors on the outside looking not to be overlooked – including Lazio. Le Aquile have the producing striker in Ciro Immobile who can carry the club on a whim, two class midfield influencers in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto to take the edge off and a solid backstop in central defender Francesco Acerbi. While this clash isn’t the end all be all for both club’s UEFA Champions League objectives, it serves as a very good litmus test to see how well the two stack up in the ongoing charge for top four.
Capocannoniere contenders collide in Rome
Piggybacking off Lazio and Atalanta‘s early season battle, we have the race for the capocannoniere, which is beginning to heat up as more and more contenders jump into the contest. Through 7 rounds, Ciro Immobile tops the charts with 7 goals, followed by Duvan Zapats (6 goals), Andrea Belotti (5 goals) and Domenico Berardi (5 goals). This weekend, the top two contenders collide in Rome, not only looking to support their respective sides in leaving the Stadio Olimpico victorious, but also solidify their case to win the award. The Italian, with another 13 goals this season, would enter an exclusive club of strikers to score 20+ in four campaigns, so that is certainly an individual achievement he aspires to attain. As for Zapata, he is quickly showing everyone his class and that 2018/19 was no fluke. All eyes will be on the two big time producing strikers in this one.
Pioli, Ranieri look to earn their new colors
During the international break, Serie A saw two clubs axe their managers as AC Milan followed up Sampdoria’s firing of Eusebio Di Francesco by sacking Marco Giampaolo. Claudio Ranieri and Stefano Pioli have been appointed in their place, taking over two struggling sides in search of consistent, positive results. The former Premier League title winning coach will have his Samp host a familiar foe in Roma with hopes of upsetting a previous employer and slowly begin to climb out of the pit in 20th; an uphill battle no doubt. As for Pioli, he takes over a Rossoneri in 10th that desperately needs three points at San Siro vs Lecce if top four is to become a possibility once again.
How serious are Cagliari for Europe?
How serious of a club are Cagliari this season to contend for a Europa League spot? Many of you are probably asking ”isn’t this a bit premature?”, but one could argue this positive start was somewhat expected. The Sardinians sit 7th, separated by Lazio for the final Europa League on goal differential. Hardly a surprise to see the Rossoblu punching above their weight after conducting themselves so well on the market with some shrewd business with the proceeds of Nicolò Barella’s sale to Inter. The midfield was bolstered with Radja Nainggolan, Marko Rog and Nahitan Nández, while Luca Pellegrini, Giovanni Simeone and Roma outcast Robin Olsen came along for the ride to completely revamp Cagliari top down. Early days sure, and there is a long way to go in the season, but now we should begin to see how legitimate Rolando Maran’s group truly is.
Montella and Fiorentina set sights on 4th straight win
Vincenzo Montella somehow managed to keep Fiorentina afloat last season, yet was still confirmed by new owner Rocco Commisso. Initially, this decision came as a surprise, but in recent weeks, we have gained understanding as to why the former Milan coach kept his job. After losing the first two matches of the season, the Viola remain unbeaten in their last five matches, with the club currently riding a nice three match win streak bumping them into a respectable 8th place. Gaetano Castrovilli, Franck Ribéry and Erick Pulgar are among many to impress during this stretch, lending credence to a club and manager who are on the same wavelength and heading in the right direction. Fiorentina visit Brescia this weekend looking to make it four straight and invite themselves into the Europa League contention party early on.
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