After a dreadful stretch of Champions League matches for Italian clubs, Serie A returns this weekend. Here are the main story lines to watch
Will Inter officially enter the “Britney Spears with a shaved head attacking an SUV with an umbrella” phase of their season?
You have to hand it to Inter- they qualified for the Champions League in nerve wrecking fashion, their main star Icardi proved himself on the biggest stage in European competitions, they won two key matches in the last few minutes and they still managed to throw away qualifying out of the group stage because they couldn’t defeat a team already eliminated in front of close to 70,000 fans.
On the bright side, after the draw took place last summer not many gave them a chance to qualify in the first place, but failing to defeat PSV on the heels of their loss to bitter rival Juventus may have some serious repercussions. Spalletti will need his team to get back on track when they face Udinese at San Siro on Sunday, anything less than a win could send the team on a tail spin.
The nerazzurri desperately need at least one out of Ivan Perisic or Radja Nainggolan to get going in the coming weeks. On paper they’re the ones expected to be the two biggest difference makers on the team after Icardi and Skriniar, but so far you can make a great case that Politano and Vecino/Joao Mario have been more impactful at their respective roles.
Will Di Francesco hold on to his job? Will Kouame’ shine against his potential new team?
Roma has already sent their players on two retreats during the season following a string of disappointing results so now there is really no option left but to make a managerial change if things continue to go south. On the bright side for Di Francesco, he was able to get of his Champions League- something that Spalletti and Ancelotti failed to do, but qualifying for the next edition of the cup with the Mickey Mouse ears is what matters to the club- they simply cannot afford to forfeit those revenues.
Di Francesco will get one more chance against Genoa, a club that also went through a coaching change by replacing Ivan Juric with Cesare Prandelli. While on paper this should be a fairly easy match for the giallorossi, they have really struggled against the provinciali teams and now have to face Piatek and the surging Kouame’ after giving up goals in nine consecutive matches. Roma are ironically one of the many clubs who have expressed interest in Kouame’, they recently met with his agent to plant the seeds for a potential negotiation.
Will Zaza and Rincon punish their former team in the derby della Mole?
After an uneven start to the season, the granata are on pretty good roll- they’re on a four game unbeaten streak in all competitions, manager Walter Mazzarri returned to the team after being hospitalized and their star striker Andrea Belotti is starting to regain some confidence. Following a draw at San Siro against Milan, Torino now face Juventus in the first derby della Mole of the season.
Mazzarri will keep his fingers crossed that one of his two illustrious former bianconeri comes through on Saturday- Tomas Rincon is a perfect embodiment of Torino’s trademark grinta and with the suspended Rodrigo Bentancur he’ll likely face off against Juve’s new enforcer Emre Can, while Simone Zaza is no stranger to goals in big matches. But so far the former Sassuolo striker has struggled in his return to Serie A, he has only scored 1 goal and there are still questions on how he fits alongside Belotti.
Will Cagliari continue to hold their own at home against a top opponent?
The shocking comeback against Roma despite being down to 9 men was just the latest impressive performance Cagliari delivered for their season ticket holders. The Sardinian club are undefeated at home and will get Nicolo’ Barella back from his one game suspension when they square off against Napoli on Sunday. The home grown midfielder is the club’s best player and he has already been linked to Arsenal and Chelsea as well as every top Serie A club.
While Napoli will have to dust off the disappointment of the elimination from the Champions League, they should get a boost from Faouzi Ghoulam. The Algerian left back shined in his return to the pitch against Frosinone, the upcoming match against Cagliari will serve as a better test to gauge his level of fitness. Ancelotti may also give another chance to Alex Meret who will have his work cut out for him to permanently gain the starting job he expected last summer since in the meantime Ospina has been an upgrade from what we saw from Pepe Reina last season.
Can Sassuolo get back on track against Frosinone?
After a brilliant start to the season, Sassuolo have come back down to earth. The neroverdi have only one win in their last nine matches, they simply have not looked the same especially after Kevin Prince Boateng injury. In order for manager Roberto De Zerbi to reclaim the title as “the hot up and coming Italian manager” he’ll have to get his team back on track, starting with Sunday’s away match against Frosinone.