Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri booked their spots in the Final Four of the Nations League after wins over England and Hungary during this break, a positive step forward for Italy after their World Cup qualification failure earlier this year.
Six weeks now separate this weekend from the World Cup break on November 15 and the top teams have 12 games to play in this period between Serie A and European competition, setting up a busy period.
This weekend’s action kicks off with Napoli-Torino (14.00 UK time), Inter-Roma (17.00) and Empoli–Milan (19.45). Sunday sees six games take place, Lazio–Spezia (11.30), Sassuolo–Salernitana (14.00), Lecce-Cremonese (14.00), Sampdoria-Monza (14.00), Atalanta–Fiorentina (17.00) and Juventus-Bologna (19.45). The Monday match is between Hellas Verona–Udinese (19.45).
Here are five things to keep an eye on in the 8th Serie A gameday of the season.
Napoli on the front foot
Luciano Spalletti’s side currently sit top of the Serie A table after seven games, picking up 17 points from five wins and two draws. The team have looked equally strong in the Champions League, picking up wins over Liverpool and Rangers, and expectations are starting to grow in the Campania capital.
Napoli’s Scudetto bid relies on consistent wins over the weaker sides in the league, so Spalletti will be expecting a commanding victory over Torino on Saturday afternoon, wanting his squad to keep their foot on the gas as they start to dream of a first league title in over 30 years.
The Partenopei edged out two 1-0 wins over the Granata last season and both victories required goals late in the second half, so the Campania side will be hoping for a more relaxing three points at the start of this busy period.
Mourinho hungry for first blood
Jose Mourinho’s Roma travel to San Siro for their clash with a struggling Inter tomorrow, an emotional moment for the Portuguese coach, who brought the Treble to the Lombardy capital over a decade ago. Feelings and memories will be put aside as the Giallorossi fight for all three points, something they haven’t achieved against the Nerazzurri since a cold February evening in 2017.
Mourinho has never managed to beat Inter in his career, suffering three losses with his Roma side last season across Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Considering the Nerazzurri’s inconsistent start to the campaign, this match is the perfect chance for the Portuguese coach to get his first taste of black and blue blood at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Simone Inzaghi will be hoping to hold the doors in Lombardy, desperate to put a stop to the team’s poor results after a tough opening seven games. Inter have lost three of these seven matches, a concerning start after just missing out on the Scudetto last campaign.
Tatarusanu steps up to the plate
The international break was a strange period for Milan, allowing them to recover key players like Sandro Tonali and Davide Calabria but also seeing them lose vital figures like Mike Maignan and Theo Hernandez. The two Frenchmen have played important roles for Stefano Pioli and were instrumental parts of the Scudetto winning team last season.
Maignan in particular shined in his debut season in Italy, keeping 17 clean sheets in his first 32 Serie A appearances. The 27-year-old has now been sidelined for a month, forcing Pioli to place his trust in 36-year-old Romanian backup Ciprian Tatarusanu.
The second-string shot-stopper made six league appearances last season for the Rossoneri and his work was sufficient enough, although he only managed to keep one clean sheet and conceded 10 goals. He has also been subbed into the Champions League squad, so it’s important he finds confidence in tomorrow’s game against Empoli as the team ready themselves for a tough six-week spell.
Atalanta continuing to dream
La Dea did not have a positive 2021-22 season, finishing outside the European spots in 8th after a long and taxing campaign. The team have rebounded under Gian Piero Gasperini this year and now tie Napoli at the top of the league table, securing 17 points from five wins and two draws. Atalanta’s last game was an important 1-0 away win over Roma, adding further confidence before this international break.
Atalanta have another tough test this weekend, facing a frustrated Fiorentina side. The Viola’s second year under Vincenzo Italiano has started incredibly inconsistently and fans are hoping to feel the winds of change blow through the streets of Florence as they fight to restore their fortunes.
The Bergamo side lost both of their games against Fiorentina last season, 2-1 at home and 1-0 away, so they’ll be looking to shake off these recent slips with a confident showing in front of their adoring home crowd. Another win this weekend keeps up the pressure on league leaders Napoli and allows them to continue dreaming of another exciting season, although it may still be too early to talk of a Scudetto bid.
Allegri desperate to right the ship
The noise surrounding Juventus’ poor start to the season is starting to get incredibly deafening and Allegri will need to continue blocking this out as he works to guide his team out of these choppy waters. The Bianconeri have only picked up two wins in their first seven games and the 1-0 loss to Monza ahead of this international break only increased the frustration in Turin.
This weekend’s match against Bologna is the perfect opportunity for the Old Lady to kick off this six-week period on the front foot. The Rossoblu replaced Sinisa Mihajlovic with Thiago Motta and they’re currently languishing in 16th in the table, looking poor despite Marko Arnautovic’s exploits, so Juventus will be desperate to put on a good show at the Allianz Arena.
The run-up to the World Cup is a vital time for the Bianconeri and they’ll have to try and grind out positive results without star figures like Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa, pushing Allegri to try a new formation that’ll see Arkadiusz Milik join up with Dusan Vlahovic up front, hoping to give the talented Serb more support in attack. Whether this test works will remain to be seen.