The Serie A season has really begun to pick up steam. Last weekend, we saw two great battles. First, was an instant classic between Inter Milan and Atalanta at the San Siro on Saturday. Then it was the Derby della Capitale on Sunday. And although the result in that one wasn’t what we here at CdT wanted, it was yet another entertaining match between two of the biggest sides in Serie A.
With the season now six weeks old, the table is beginning to take shape. And despite the loss to Lazio, Roma still remains in the coveted top four positions. On maximum points, Napoli has been the class of the league so far under Luciano Spalletti, while the Milan clubs are looking like serious Scudetto threats again. Then comes the Giallorossi and surprise outfit Fiorentina who have Lazio and Atalanta nipping at their heels just a point off a top four spot. Meanwhile, Juve sits in tenth.
Nevertheless, things can change quickly, especially when there are direct clashes between the aforementioned sides. It’s starting to look like eight clubs could be in contention for Champions League births this season, which makes weekends like this one all the more important. So, get ready for the big weekend ahead by reading our matchday previews for Roma’s rivals for a top four place.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 7 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Matches
Fiorentina vs Napoli Sunday 12:00 EDT/18:00 CET
Unfortunately for us Romanisti, this match will be played at the same time as Roma’s match against Empoli. But, you may want to throw this one on a separate device while you watch Roma on the tube because this could be a good one. Vincenzo Italiano has pulled La Viola out of the doldrums and has it playing like one of the best sides in the league. Fiorentina enters level with Roma on 12 points coming off a 1-0 win over Udinese.
Meanwhile, Napoli has gotten off to a perfect 6-0-0 start to the campaign and sit top of the table. Spalletti’s side boasts the second-best attack with 16 goals and best defense so far with only two conceded.
The Partenopei have only started the season with 21 points through three matches once—back in 2017-2018. And Fiorentina has only ever had more than 15 points through seven matches once under Paulo Sousa back in 2015-2016. So, that speaks to just how well these two have started.
Napoli will have to bounce back from its first setback of the season in the Europa League on Thursday—a 3-2 loss to Spartak Moscow. And Fiorentina should be the fresher side since Italiano’s side isn’t playing in Europe. But, the Partenopei have recent history on their side having won four of their last six over La Viola while losing only once in their last 12 trips to Florence (6-5-1).
This match could be won in the first half if either side gets off to a fast start as both have only conceded one time each in the first stanza to this point in the season. On the other hand, if that trend continues it could be a nervy second half waiting to see who blinks first.
Vincenzo Italiano - since the boss arrived from Spezia in the summer, Fiorentina are playing some of their best football that fans have seen for several years. The young boss has brought in some real dynamic play and has already proved that he’s more than capable of taking Fiorentina forward. So far, the Viola have played well versus Roma and Inter but have lost both matches. Now it’s time to see if the side have progressed enough to compete with Napoli.
Nico Gonzalez - the Argentine winger offers a genuine threat from the wing. Luciano Spalletti will have real problems to deal with if he can get in behind Napoli’s full-backs and put in dangerous balls to Dusan Vlahovic. Gonzalez already has one goal and one assist in his first 307 minutes of Serie A football and he will undoubtedly be looking to add to that after he was missing through suspension last week.
Stamina - Fiorentina have often started at a frightening pace, playing the high-tempo pressing football that Italiano is so keen on. However, they have struggled as yet to maintain those same energy levels into the second half, but this is something that can only improve as the players’ fitness levels adjust to the demands placed upon them. After last week’s win over Udinese, Italiano said: “We struggle a little bit when the opponents press high up the pitch and so we introduced a defender to handle their pressure, we need to improve on this. We should have made the most of the chances we had, and in future we must adapt more to what happens during the game.”
Alfred Duncan - After it appeared Fiorentina didn’t want Duncan when former boss Beppe Iachini sent him out on loan to Cagliari last season, this time around he has been a key man for Italiano. Freed of the shackles of playing as a purely defensive midfielder, Duncan has used his technical quality to really influence the play. He will be a real threat to Napoli if selected at the weekend.
Napoli are coming off their first loss of the season in a tough battle with Spartak Moscow in the Europa League, but now they look to go into the International break maintaining their perfect record in Serie A versus Fiorentina this weekend at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. In that Thursday loss, Mario Rui saw red in the 31st minute. Lorenzo Insigne, Victor Osimhen, Piotr Zielinski and Zambo Anguissa all saw 45 minutes or less of action, and both Amir Rrahmani and Davide Ospina sat the match out vs Spartak so manager Luciano Spalletti will have a full, healthy squad at his disposal and should be fielding the regular starting XI. Dries Mertens and Diego Demme are also ready to return from lengthy injury spells, so options are a plenty.
Aside from beating a depleted Juventus at the Maradona, Napoli’s 100% start has come with some doubters claiming their opposition has been less than impressive and that this will be there first real test. What Napoli need to do leave Firenze with all three points is to stay composed after their first loss. They’ll need to continue to get the ball to Victor Osimhen, who leads Napoli with 7 goals in all competitions. They’ll need the right leadership from captain Lorenzo Insigne. They’ll need the pillar of their defense, Kalidou Koulibaly, and goalkeeper Davide Ospina to lead and command that defense to stay tight. And I believe they’ll need “Chooky” Lozano to play over Matteo Politano for this match, as I’m being convinced more and more that Chooky should be the regular starter for us this season. While Politano is not doing bad, I just feel when Lozano starts, the team dynamic flows better.
The biggest thing though, is their mentality. They need to take the opportunity to learn from the early red card v the Russians so if it happens again, they’ll be ready for a better approach on how to deal with that situation. They need to put that loss behind them. If they can, they’ll be unstoppable. With Gennaro Gattuso, Napoli were rejuvenated after the Carlo Ancelotti/mutiny disaster, and they were getting better and better. They finished unbeaten in 15 of their last 16 matches under Rino. But what Spalletti brings to this Napoli squad that Gattuso couldn’t, is experience, composure and better match management. Osimhen vs Vlahovic is an exciting matchup, and either way, this has the makings to be one for the ages.
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Atalanta vs AC Milan Sunday 2:45 EDT/20:45 CET
Normally we feature one non-Roma match as the match of the week, but how could we choose between this one and the previous match? This match immediately follows the Roma match, so it’ll be easier to tune into for Romanisti.
For the second straight week, Atalanta will be going up against one of the Milanese giants after drawing Inter 2-2 in a thriller last weekend. Meanwhile, Milan beat a pesky Spezia side 2-1 last weekend. However, both sides played mid-week matches in the Champions League this week. Atalanta got a vital 1-0 win over Young Boys, while Milan was the victim of some poor refereeing in a 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any carryover for the Rossoneri who have only dropped two points to Juve in the league to this point.
Atalanta is off to its slowest start in three seasons with 11 points after having 13 in 2019-2020 and 12 in 2020-2021 through six matches. Meanwhile, the Rossoneri after off to one of their best starts in the three-point era and could equal their best-ever start with 17 in 2003-2004 with a victory.
Milan has been one of the toughest sides on Gianpiero Gasperini in his tenure, he’s only defeated them once in five previous matches in Bergamo. Milan has the second-best defensive record having conceded just three times, while Atalanta is joint third-best giving up only six. So, both teams will have to take the chances that are afforded them because there may not be a ton.
One interesting caveat, these sides haven’t repeated the same result in their last six meetings. The last time out Milan won back in May. That’s a streak La Dea would love to see continue.
Atalanta is looking to get past one of its most difficult stretches of the calendar that saw the club face Sassuolo, Inter, Young Boys (in UCL), and Milan on Sunday. Past Atalanta teams may have crumbled under the extreme fixture congestions, but I’d reckon that most Atalanta fans are happy to sit seventh in the league right now and first in its Champion’s League group.
Injuries, both players suffering from them and returning from them, should have the greatest impact on how Atalanta can fare with Milan. Both Jose Palomino and Robin Gosens are going to be doubtful after suffering muscle injuries, putting a lot of stress on an already thin wingback and centerback core. But on the flip side Luis Muriel is finally back from his injury that sidelined him for a month. For an offense that has struggled to score this season, getting Muriel back should be a huge shot in the arm for the offense. Zapata has been very good this year, but Muriel’s change of pace when he normally enters in the second half is a difference maker.
While the offense will be key for Atalanta to secure three points, it all starts at the back for La Dea. Merih Demiral was excellent in Champion’s League but has been unsteady in the league thus far. If he can neutralize whoever starts at center forward for Milan, it will go a long way in giving confidence to Toloi and Djimsiti to contribute in the attack and overload the wings as they’re accustomed to doing. Also keep an eye out for Atalanta’s new signing Teun Koopmeiners. He offers reprieve in the double pivot but also has a deadly left foot that can unleash players bombing forward to participate in the offense.
WINNING THE MIDFIELD BATTLE: Games are won & lost in the midfield and we’ve seen Milan’s midfield being an integral part for the team’s success. When on, the likes of Franck Kessie, Ismael Bennacer & Sandro Tonali have shown they can go toe-to-toe with any midfield. Shutting down Freuler, De Roon & company like the Rossoneri did recently vs Lazio will be huge.
BRAHIM DIAZ: Is there anything to even say? Brahim The Dream has been arguably one of, if not the best Milan player to open this years campaign. From scoring goals to providing assists or just being that crucial link from midfield to attack, Brahim has done it. Taking on the #10 at a club like Milan is never easy but the Spaniard has so far risen to the occasion. Milan will need to see their playmaking attacking midfielder to shake off those midweek UCL knocks & come out strong vs La Dea.
MIKE MAIGNAN: Magic Mike or Iron Mike whichever you prefer has been rock solid for Milan since replacing Gigio Donnarumma at the club. The Frenchman has integrated amazingly & just seems to fit the Rossoneri’s system perfectly. From his steady hands between the sticks to his fierce long ball deliveries with either leg & everything in between, Maignan has been an surprising breath of fresh air for the Rossoneri. No matter who has been in front of him things have looked good defensively, reports stating that Simon Kjaer could return to action will be an added bonus for Milan as well.
STEFANO PIOLI: Padre Pioli needs to regroup this squad after the midweek UCL madness vs Atletico. Being physically prepared is one thing but mentally prepared is a whole other ball game. This young squad needs to be ready & focused to take on Gasperini’s Atalanta as they’re far from a pushover side. Milanisti have seen their manager improve on his decision making & times for substitutions & will need impacts off the bench to also make a difference at the Gewiss Stadium.
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Other Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers
Torino vs Juventus Saturday 12:00 EDT/18:00 CET
This is the first time since 2015 that the Derby della Mole sees both Turin-based clubs enter on equal footing on the table. Both clubs enter with identical 2-2-2 records. However, Juventus has been the biggest underachiever early in the season, while Torino is looking rejuvenated under Ivan Juric.
Torino comes into this one unbeaten in its last four after losing its first two matches to Atalanta and Fiorentina. In its last two, Il Toro has drawn 1-1 against Lazio and Veneiza—the first result an encouraging sign, while the second was a bit of a step back. Toro’s strength unsurprisingly has been its defense with just six goals conceded. That shouldn’t come as a shock considering Juric’s tactics as a manager in his previous spell at Hellas Verona.
Juve has won its last two in the league over Spezia and Sampdoria after a very slow start. And on Wednesday the Bianconeri pulled off an impressive 1-0 win over Chelsea in the Champions League. It’s a result that should buoy Juve’s confidence. It was Juve’s second Champions League clean sheet, but Allegri’s side has yet to keep an opponent at bay so far in the league. In fact, Juve has already conceded 10, including two each in its last two wins.
This is probably the most one-sided derby consistently played in Italy’s top flight with Torino winning just once in the last 30 meetings and Juve winning 22 times. If Torino is ever going to get its first win over Juve since April 2015, it may not have a better chance than in this one.
Sassuolo vs Inter Milan Saturday 2:45 EDT/20:45 CET
Inter’s title defense has gotten off to a strong start under Simone Inzaghi with the Nerazzurri still unbeaten (6-2-0) and sitting third in the table. However, the Milan-based side has drawn its last two matches against Atalanta in the league and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. But for all of their goalscoring issues in Europe, the Nerazzurri have lit Serie A up to the tune of a league-leading 20 goals.
Sassuolo on the other hand is a bit lower in the Serie A table than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them as they currently sit 12th. The main reason is that the offense under new manager Alessio Dionisi hasn’t been as high-flying as it had been under Roberto DeZerbi with just six goals scored. However, the defense has been stout conceding just seven times. So, it’ll be interesting to see if the Neroverdi can slow down Inter’s prolific attack.
The teams have met 16 times in Serie A and have split them evenly 7-7-2 with the two sides winning four each at the Mapei.
Bologna vs Lazio Sunday 6:30 EDT/12:30 CET
This match features two sides trending in opposite directions. Lazio is unbeaten in its last three in the league, including winning last week’s Derby della Capitale. Meanwhile, Bologna has collected just one point in the same stretch, conceding 12 goals in the process. This looks like a match that Maurizio Sarri will be relishing considering Lazio’s ability to put up goals.
- Cagliari vs Venezia: Friday 2:45 EDT/ 18:30 CET
- Salernitana vs Genoa: Saturday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Verona vs Spezia: Sunday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Sampdoria vs Udinese: Sunday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET