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Week Two Serie A Preview: Juve v Napoli And Rome Derby

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After an opening weekend filled with high-scoring games, as well as traditionally cagey affairs, week two sees last season’s top two play each other, as well as one of Italy’s most ferocious derbies.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli travel to Scudetto holders Juventus and it is currently unknown whether Maurizio Sarri will be in the dug out after taking time off due to pneumonia.

Also, the eyes of the capital will be on the Stadio Olimpico, as Lazio play Roma in the derby… and with plenty of other decent affairs, here is a look at this weekend’s fixtures in Italy’s top flight.

FRIDAY
It was a frustrating weekend for both these teams, but for very different reasons.

Bologna were held to a 1-1 draw at Verona, but after taking the lead through Nicola Sansone’s penalty, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s team couldn’t hold on against 10 men. Yet the game will be remembered for Mihajlovic’s return to the dugout less than two months after being diagnosed with leukemia – a special moment.

For SPAL, they disappointingly blew a two-goal lead at home to Champions League side Atalanta, falling to a 3-2 defeat as Luis Muriel scored a second half double in arguably the match of the weekend.

It’s sure to be an emotional occasion at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, with the home fans welcoming Mihajlovic back home, and they’ll be hoping his return can result in a first win of the season.

SATURDAY
AC Milan vs Brescia

Milan failed to register a shot on target in their 1-0 loss at Udinese last week and will want to register their first points of the season at the San Siro against Brescia.

Saturday’s visitors won on the road against Cagliari on opening weekend, as they were recipients of a controversial penalty awarded after a VAR review.

Nonetheless, an impressive win on the road for the Serie B champions, indicating that Marco Giampaolo’s team can’t take Brescia lightly on Saturday, otherwise there’ll be another potential shock on the cards.

Juventus vs Napoli

This is undoubtedly the match of the weekend. Juventus, who are chasing an astonishing ninth Serie A title in a row, face last season’s runners-up Napoli, who have not won Italy’s top flight since 1990.

It can also be called the Sarri derby this season, even if the current Juve boss isn’t present in the dugout against his former club. Sarri is being treated for pneumonia and missed the champions’ opening win at Parma, where Giorgio Chiellini’s poked finish was enough for three points.

Napoli also started the season with a win, edging out Fiorentina 4-3 in a Florence thriller. Second place in three of the past four seasons, Ancelotti’s team will want to throw down the gauntlet ahead of the international break, and a result at Juve would certainly be a statement of intent.

This match is not to be missed.

SUNDAY
Lazio vs Roma

The ‘Derby della Capitale’ is not for the faint hearted, and it’s sure to be a boisterous atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico.

Roma’s season started how it left off… in disappointing fashion. They were in front on three separate occasions against Genoa but couldn’t close it out and were held to a frustrating point, 3-3.

Lazio, meanwhile, flew out the blocks, as a Ciro Immobile double and a Joaquín Correa strike against his former club secured a 3-0 victory at Sampdoria.

After 2018-19 turned into poor seasons by the lofty, ambitious standards these two clubs aim for – Roma finished in sixth, Lazio in eighth – both will be desperate for capital city bragging rights come 7:00pm on Sunday evening.

Atalanta vs Torino

As mentioned previously, last season’s surprise package Atalanta staged a stirring comeback against SPAL, with new signing Luis Muriel making an immediate impact with a second half brace.

Torino held on against Sassuolo for a 2-1 opening weekend win, and that came in between their Europa League play-off against Wolves, which ultimately ended in a 5-3 aggregate defeat on Thursday night.

A game between 2018-19’s overachievers, and thus a match worth keeping an eye on amongst a number of 7:45pm kick offs on Sunday night.

Cagliari vs Inter Milan

Cagliari slumped to a surprise 1-0 loss at home to Brescia, but were on the harsh end of a controversial handball decision in the box, leading to the visitors’ match-winning penalty.

And it doesn’t get any easier for the islanders this Sunday against Antonio Conte’s Inter. They thumped Lecce 4-0 at the San Siro on Monday night, with Romelu Lukaku scoring on his Serie A debut.

Inter look threatening, after a sizeable investment into the squad this summer, and could even squeeze loan signing Alexis Sanchez into the matchday squad – they are certainly heavy favourites here.

Genoa vs Fiorentina

Genoa, who escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth last season (courtesy of a superior head-to-head record against Empoli), secured an excellent point at the Stadio Olimpico last week against Roma, as they fought back from a goal down three times for a 3-3 draw.

For Fiorentina, despite a debut goal for Kevin-Prince Boateng and a first appearance for veteran winger Franck Ribery from the bench, they were on the wrong side of a seven-goal thriller against Napoli, falling just short in a 4-3 loss.

As a result, both teams are looking for their first win of the season this Sunday at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. In a clash between 17th and 16th last campaign, three points here could give one side the early-season momentum needed to avoid another relegation dogfight this time round.

Lecce vs Hellas Verona

It was a baptism of fire in Serie A for Lecce after promotion from Serie B. Dealt the short straw with an opening match at big-spending Inter Milan, they were soundly beaten 4-0 at the San Siro, with their two shots on target out of 17 attempted a rate which won’t win them many games this season.

Verona, who also came up from Serie B, via the play-offs, had to work hard for their first point of the season, as they came back from a man and a goal down to draw 1-1 at home to Bologna – veteran midfielder Miguel Veloso scoring the crucial equaliser.

Sunday’s tussle, between two promoted sides, gives both clubs the opportunity for a precious first win of the season, and even at this early stage, it would undoubtedly be a massive confidence boost ahead of the international break.

Sassuolo vs Sampdoria

Sassuolo, who it may surprise some people to know are now in their sixth straight Serie A season, were punished for a lack of clinical finishing in the final third last week – two times as many shots as Torino, but a 2-1 loss exemplifying exactly where it went wrong for Roberto De Zerbi’s team.

A reliance on veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella may be the undoing of Sampdoria this season – the 36-year-old got them out of jail countless times last season, but a 3-0 home defeat to Lazio last week indicates their ninth placed finish in 2018-19 may take some beating on this occasion.

This could be a tense, cagey affair between two of last season’s middle of the range teams; both looking for a first win of the season, who will triumph in northern Italy on Sunday?

Udinese vs Parma

Udinese’s late winner at home to AC Milan, courtesy of a powerful Rodrigo Becao header, was a brilliant opening day result, and Igor Tudor’s team will be looking to make home advantage count again as they take on Parma.

It was an admirable opening weekend showing for Parma against Scudetto holders Juventus – only a scrappy Chiellini goal separated the two teams. Once a powerhouse in Italian football, three straight promotions from Serie D to Serie A were followed by a highly respectable 14th place last season.

Udinese, who will be riding high after last week’s victory, are favourites for this one, though don’t write off Parma, who have none other than former Arsenal winger Gervinho playing for them – it has the potential to be a great contest at the Dacia Arena.