Another week of Serie A action is in the books and if you’re one of the league’s big boys then the midweek round treated you well. That is unless you’re Juventus. Roma scored a vital victory on a tricky trip to Sardegna, but so did table rivals Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atalanta, Lazio, and Napoli. Only Juve fell at the death to a persistent Sassuolo side.
With those results, the table remains congested, especially places three through seven.
With matchday 10 just ending on Thursday, the turnaround for matchday 11 is quick. And it’ll be another exciting round with two big head-to-head matchups of the top six sides in the table.
Of course, one of those is Roma hosting Milan at the Olimpico. It’ll be yet another opportunity for Mourinho’s side to score a crucial victory against a rival for European places. But, that’s not the only match to keep an eye on in another scintillating weekend of Serie A action.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 11 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
Atalanta vs Lazio Saturday 9:00 EDT/15:00 CET
The weekend action starts off with a bang in Bergamo. It’s a big match between two sides with Champions League aspirations when Lazio squares off against Atalanta. So, sit back with your morning espresso and buckle up for what could be an open, high-flying affair.
The Biancoceleste are coming off a big home win during the midweek when they defeated Fiorentina at the Olimpico. It was an important bounce-back win after Maurizio Sarri’s side was thoroughly humiliated at Verona on the weekend. In the process, Lazio also kept its first clean sheet of the season. That should provide badly needed confidence for a defense that has been shredded for multiple goals multiple times this season.
And Lazio’s defense will have to be at its absolute best against an Atalanta side that has scored in their last 10 head-to-heads. And La Dea is starting to find its goalscoring stride with 8 goals scored in their last three league matches, including Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Sampdoria.
Interestingly enough though, that success, like most of the team’s success this season came on the road. In fact, Atalanta has captured just five points at home against thirteen on the road. Additionally, La Dea has won just one of its last six home matches, which adds an interesting caveat to the match.
These two teams are separated by just one point in the table, so three points, either way, could be huge in the long run. To help us understand what each team will have to do to take maximum points we turned to two experts: Dan Pezzotta of Atalanta Pod and Shawn McIntosh of Lazio World.
Atalanta Match Keys to Victory Courtesy of Dan Pezzotta
Defense: The question here is, who is going to play? Atalanta has been hit with a huge injury bug that is potentially affecting their top 3 CBs and their starting wingbacks. Jose Luis Palomino’s yellow card on Wednesday against Sampdoria has him suspended for the Lazio match, so if Merih Demiral is unable to play, the back three will be two youngsters (Matteo Lovato and 17 year old Giorgio Scalvini) and Marten De Roon who has been filling in admirably at CB from midfield. How is this makeshift back 3 going cope with Lazio’s potent attacking trident of Immobile, Pedro, and Felipe Anderson? When it comes to wingbacks, how is Joakim Maehle going to contend with the alarming pace of Manuel Lazzari, especially if the support behind him is the 17 year old Scalvini? Will this force him to play more cautiously and prevent him from supporting the attack?
Midfield: With De Roon in defense, it’s up to Remo Freuler and newcomer Teun Koopmeiners to contend with the attacking prowess of Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto. In order for Atalanta to win the match, the two midfielders must shut down the service to Ciro Immobile, winning the midfield battle. Another key in the midfield will be pressing the Lazio defense and midfield high up the pitch to force turnovers in dangerous areas, and disrupting Lazio’s brand of Sarri-ball. This is a tall order with the skill and creativity of the Lazio midfield.
Attack: Luis Muriel was rested against Sampdoria, so this may mean he starts ahead of Duvan Zapata at the weekend. While Duvan undoubtedly would create a huge matchup nightmare for Acerbi and Luiz Felipe, the pace and finishing of Muriel may be what the doctor ordered. He gives La Dea the ability to go long and counter, especially with the like of Koopmeiners in midfield who can hit accurate long passes. With both Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinvoskyi supporting, there is creativity in attack, and Atalanta need to take their chances, be more clinical. Should Mario Pasalic start ahead of Ilicic or Malinovskyi, there’s a bit more defensive solidity in attacking midfield, and his late runs into the box and nose for goal will give the Lazio backline fits. There’s a good chance that he could start ahead of Malinovskyi.
Lazio Match Keys to Victory Courtesy of Shawn McIntosh
Lazio enter this match having found themselves playing the role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season. Lazio have shown flashes of their ability to play the much acclaimed “Sarriball.” Lazio kickstarted their season with 9 goals scored in their first two matches. Against Roma and Inter, Lazio found the back of the net a total of 6 times, earning three points in each match. They’ve struggled to maintain that rhythm, dropping points immediately after those big wins against the likes of Bologna and Verona. The season was always going to require patience, and inconsistencies were sure to be a staple of this campaign.
Despite the lack of consistency as a unit, there have been some reliable influences. Ciro Immobile, currently standing atop the league with 8 goals, remains a threat match in and match out. Felipe Anderson has felt at home upon his return to the Capital Club and sees himself in the top 10 in average match rating over the course of the season with a 7.32 (according to whoscored.com). Pedro has seemingly mistaken the TreviFountain for the Fountain of Youth as he continues his provide energy when his teammates lack it.
Lazio enter this match having beaten Fiorentina midweek, earning their first clean sheet of the season. Defensive woes remain the consistent threat to derail the Biancocelesti. This side continues to adjust to a back four, but it’s the subtle missed assignments and lack of concentration that punish Lazio; particularly when caught in transition. Hysaj, after starting this campaign strong, has seemingly looked lost at times. Pepe Reina, likely to start this match, has been as inconsistent as the results. Acerbi and Luiz Felipe are set to start their second consecutive match together and if they can build on the Fiorentina match, Lazio can remain optimistic. Lazio can make a mountain out of a molehill, but they can take some comfort in knowing this isn’t the same high scoring Atalanta side they’ve faced in recent seasons.
Lazio have shown a propensity to wake up for big matches, so they have that on their side entering Saturday. If they can clean up their defensive deficiencies, tighten up their link up play out of the back, and use their wingers, they could very well take down another strong side and build momentum as they enter the thick of this Serie A season.
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Other Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers
Verona vs Juventus Saturday 12:00 EDT/18:00 CET
Of all these teams in the race for the top four, Juve could use the three points the most. The Bianconeri had been in a decent run of form, led by a stout defense that had seen Max Allegri’s side go unbeaten in nine matches in all competitions. However, that all ended on Wednesday when Sassuolo came to the Allianz and silenced the stadium with a stoppage time winner on the counterattack.
A trip to Verona won’t be the easiest way for the Bianconeri to bounce back though. The Mastiffs have risen to the top half of the table in recent weeks under new manager Igor Tudor (3W-3D-1L) after an atrocious start under Eusebio Di Francesco. And in that time Verona has only lost to Milan while knocking off both Roman clubs. If Tudor’s side brings the intensity and sharpness it displayed in those two matches then Juve will be in for a fight in the city of Romeo and Juliet.
Inter Milan vs Udinese Sunday 7:30 EDT/12:30 CET
While Milan travels to the Olimpico to face Roma, Inter will be busy hosting Udinese. After seeing two points go to waste late in last Sunday’s match against Juve, the Nerazzurri bounced back on Wednesday in a 2-0 win over Empoli. The win means that Simone Inzaghi’s side equaled its start to last year’s title-winning campaign with 21 points (6-3-1) while scoring the same number of goals (26) and conceding two fewer (12).
So, despite it feeling like Inter isn’t as good as last year that seems to be more of a result of the blazing hot starts of Milan and Napoli than a drop in the Nerazzurri’s game. Welcoming Udinese seems to be a good place for Inter to continue to pile up the points given the two sides' recent history.
In fact, since 2015, Inter has won 10 matches against the Zebrette and has only beaten Genoa more. And in their last seven meetings, Inter has conceded just once. It’ll be a tall task for Luca Gotti’s Udinese to end that negative record. Fourteenth place Udinese enters having drawn its last three in the league.
Salernitana vs Napoli Sunday 1:00 EDT/18:00 CET
Napoli bounced back from its first setback of the season against Roma by thoroughly dismantling Bologna on Thursday. The win means that the Partenopei still top the league table with 28 points through 10 league matches. In that time Luciano Spalletti’s side has scored 22 goals. However, even more impressive is the fact that Napoli’s league-best defense has conceded just three times.
That combination should ensure another three points on Sunday when Napoli takes a short drive south to Salerno. There’s no doubting that the crowd would love to take down the regional big boys in a Campania derby. However, 19th place Salernitana has done little to suggest the home team can get a result. The Serie A newboys have scored just 10 times and conceded 22 en route to a 2-1-7 record.
- Torino vs Sampdoria: Saturday 2:45 EDT/20:45 CET
- Fiorentina vs Spezia: Sunday 10:00 EDT/15:00 CET
- Genoa vs Venezia: Sunday 10:00 EDT/15:00 CET
- Sassuolo vs Empoli: Sunday 10:00 EDT/15:00 CET
- Bologna vs Cagliari: Monday 3:45 EDT/20:45 CET