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Outside of the Romaverse: Battle of the Blues Highlights Match Day 14

Napoli hosting Lazio is our spotlight match, but it’s not the only battle of European hopefuls this weekend.

Lazio’s Italian forward Ciro Immobile runs for the ball... Photo by Pietro Mosca/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images

Roma’s European aspirations look a lot more promising now than they did at the 75th-minute mark last Sunday when 18-year-old Felix Afena-Gyan entered the fray at the Marassi. With Roma in a 0-0 deadlock with relegation battling Genoa, it looked like the Giallorossi would drop two more critical points and fall five behind Atalanta for the last Champions League place, while also falling three places in the table behind Lazio, Juve, and Fiorentina into eighth place. It would have been a demoralizing result for an already struggling side.

However, by now, we all know the impact that Felix had on the match and possibly Roma’s season. With a critical 2-0 win in Liguria, Roma maintained just a three-point gap behind fourth-place Atalanta and pulled back ahead of sixth-place Lazio in the table.

Following that up with a 4-0 thumping of Zorya yesterday means that Roma enters Sunday’s home match (12:00EST/18:00CET) with Ivan Juric’s Torino side just a bit more confident than they likely would’ve without Felix saving the day. Torino will be another tough match-up for Roma, but with some key men getting on the scoresheet yesterday, namely Tammy Abraham and Nico Zaniolo, Roma will be favored to capture all three points.

Those three points are always critical, but they become even more important during a weekend that once again features key head-to-head matches between top eight sides. Last weekend we saw Juve defeat Lazio, while Inter and Fiorentina respectively ended Napoli and Milan’s unbeaten starts.

In the process Roma closed the gap on the three losers and will hope to gain ground and/or increase their lead on at least two more sides this weekend when Napoli hosts Lazio and Juve hosts Atalanta.

So, let’s not wait any longer to breakdown match day 14’s must watch matches.

Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 14 Previews

The Best Non-Roma Match

SSC Napoli v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

Napoli vs Lazio: Sunday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET

It was a toss up between this match and the one at the Allianz to highlight, but from a league wide perspective, I had to tip the match featuring the league leaders. It’ll be interesting to see how the Partnopei respond in this one after being beaten by Inter at the San Siro and then again by Spartak Moscow in the Europa League.

Things had been going swimmingly for Luciano Spalletti to start his first season as Napoli manager, but now his side faces some adversity. Besides the losses on the pitch, Napoli also lost start striker Victor Osimhen for at least three months due to facial fractures. Osimhen is one of the leagues star goalscorers and will be tough to replace. Along with Osimhen, Napoli will be missing midfield lynchpin André Anguissa.

Napoli has won 12 of its last 16 league matches against Lazio, including the last four at the Stadio Diego Maradona. In each of those four contests, the Partenopei have scored at least twice. Napoli hasn’t lost at home since January (13W, 4D) and have’t lost consecutive league matches since last December—ironically against Inter and Lazio. Meanwhile, Lazio hasn’t lost back-to-back league games since March.

Something has got to give, so we turned to Jerry Mancini and Gianni Delli Colli for their keys to victory for each side.

Napoli Match Keys to Victory Courtesy of Gianni Delli Colli of The Calcio Guys:

Been asked to do a preview piece for the upcoming Napoli-Lazio matchup this weekend and I’m excited to do so. Napoli are currently sitting in first place, but their last 5 overall matches have been an abysmal 2 Wins 2 Losses and 1 Draw, so it’s safe to say their top form is starting to dwindle. That said, Lazio sit in sixth with 21 points and a win would see them jumping over Roma, assuming Roma loses. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right Romanisti?

Defense will be an important factor in this matchup for Napoli. Last game was an anomaly for the Partenopei, who allowed Inter to score almost as many goals as Napoli has allowed all season, but it still can create a suspect opinion about that backline for them down the road. Prince Ciro Immobile, who I refuse to call king since there’s only one king of Rome, returned for Lazio from his aggravating calf injury and scored a brace against Lokomotiv Moscow on Thursday. The return of the 3 time capocannoniere winner can be deadly for Napoli but so long as Kalidou Koulibaly helps solidify that backline, they should be fine.

Speaking of Princes, Victor Osimhen being out for 3 months does raise some concern for Napoli but offense is one of Napoli’s strongest positions in the league. Petagna will be there to fill in that void of striker, but this time calls for the veterans to step up. Mertens subbed on for Insigne around the 75th minute vs Inter and scored a beautiful goal so hopefully it’s a sign that the nagging injuries are no longer a factor for him. If Napoli want to return to winning form in the league, they will need the help of their all time leading scorer in Dries Mertens to do so.

Finally, the loss of Zambo Anguissa is a big one for the boys in blue. He has been Napoli’s best off-season acquisition, and arguably one of the best transfers in Serie A this year, who provides such a steady defensive presence in the back end of the midfield. He was the crucial piece that Napoli needed to help make them a contender since the loss of Allan a few years ago but now he’s out with a muscle tear with no timetable for his return. Either Lobotka or Demme can fill in that role, but given Demme played vs Spartak Moscow, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lobotka takes up his spot. If so, he will need to validate some of the hype Napoli fans had for him, prior to the acquisition of Anguissa, and needs to be a good partner for Fabian Ruiz. He missed out on some good playing time with a muscle injury so this might be the perfect opportunity to make up for lost time.

Lazio Match Keys to Victory Courtesy of Jerry Mancini of Calcio Connection and The Laziali:

1.Lazio will have their talisman, Ciro Immobile, back in the lineup and will definitely help their attack. In their previous match versus Juventus, they struggled to generate any offense with their striker. Lazio looked out of sync and dysfunctional in their attack. With Immobile back in the lineup, it should provide some stability and allow players such as Pedro and Felipe Anderson to be more effective.

2.Lazio need to take advantage of Napoli having key players out of their lineup. At the moment this is a team that is looking a bit fragile and out of form. They’re missing their lead striker (Victor Osimhen) and one of their best midfielders (Anguissa). Now Lazio do need to be careful and keep their guard up as this Napoli side has plenty of depth that will make it difficult for them.

Lazio still need to be organized in the backend and perform well defensively. Earning clean sheets has been difficult this season, so Francesco Acerbi and Luiz Felipe need to be at their best against Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne who have proven to be difference makers.

3.Luis Alberto, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Danilo Cataldi will need to be at their best versus Napoli. In prior matches they have key to in their victories as they’ve managed to dictate the tempo and pace of the match. Cataldi specifically has been a key link to this midfield providing some speed and technicality which has allowed Alberto and Savic to be more efficient. When Lazio’s midfield struggles, they generate very few scoring attempts and find themselves a bit dysfunctional in numerous areas of the pitch.

Poll

Match Prediciton?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Napoli Win
    (19 votes)
  • 22%
    Lazio Win
    (11 votes)
  • 40%
    Draw
    (20 votes)
50 votes total Vote Now

Other Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers

Juventus v Atalanta Bergamo - Pre-Season Friendly Match Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Juventus vs Atalanta: Saturday 12:00 EST/18:00 CET

Most weeks, this would easily be the marquee match of the Serie A weekend. However, with Juve down in the table a bit, I tipped the Napoli match. Nevertheless, this one has BIG table implications for these two sides and Roma. Atalanta enters this fixture holding the final Champions League qualification place, three ahead of Roma and four ahead of Juve, Lazio, and Fiorentina, so a win by either side can have a lasting impact either way.

These two clubs enter as two of the most in form sides over the last nine league matches (Juve 19 points, Atalanta 18), but both are coming off disappointing Champions League results on Tuesday with Juve losing 4-0 in London to Chelsea and Atalanta narrowly escaping Switzerland with a 3-3 draw against Young Boys.

Juve will be tipped as favorites by many at home, especially considering the Bianconeri are unbeaten in their last 24 in Turin against La Dea (16W, 8D). But, a more recent view of this battle shows Juve winning just two of its last nine against Gasperini’s side (6D, 1L). Also, Atalanta tends to be a very good away side this season, with 16 points in eight road matches. And Juve has lost two of its first six at home in season for the first time since 1980/81.

If La Dea was ever going to go to the Allianz and win, this could be it. Let’s see if Gasperini can take Allegri to task or if the latter’s pragmatism will win out. From a Roma perspective, a draw would be money.

Poll

Match Prediction?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Juve Win
    (7 votes)
  • 39%
    Atalanta Win
    (15 votes)
  • 42%
    Draw
    (16 votes)
38 votes total Vote Now
FC Internazionale v Shakhtar Donetsk: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Venezia vs Inter Milan: Saturday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET

The Nerazzurri will enter this one heavily favored after taking down previously unbeaten Napoli last weekend and winning a crucial Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. And Inter usually plays well after European matches, having not lost the weekend after one since March 2020. This season they’re 2-2-0 after such matches. And Inter will know that their could be another opportunity to gain ground on Napoli by the end of the weekend, considering the southerner’s tough fixture.

Inter tends to score goals in bunches and have actually scored the third most domestic goals (32) in Europe’s big five leagues. Venezia brings a respectable defense into this one, having conceded 19 times, which is ninth best in the league. However, the league leading 50 saves for the Venetians speaks to a high volume of shots conceded.

Venezia will be up against it, but should have some confidence considering it defeated Roma and mid-table Bologna in back-to-back matches. That has boosted the Iagunari up to 14th in the table on 15 points—6 clear of the relegation zone.

Venezia hasn’t spent much time in Serie A in the last two decades, but it boasts one of its best home records all-time against Inter (5 wins in 12) and could win its third consecutive top flight home match for the first time since 1962. Perhaps, the ghosts of days gone by can help the home side to surprise result.

US Sassuolo v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

AC Milan vs Sassuolo: Sunday 9:00 EST/15:00 CET

Milan enters this fixture fresh off its first loss of the Serie A season; a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Fiorentina last weekend. However, Milan bounced back mid-week with a vital 1-0 victory against Ateltico Madrid in the Champions League. The victory at the Wanda Metropolitano keeps the Rossoneri alive for progression in Europe’s premier competition and should boost their confidence ahead of Sunday’s home match against Sassuolo.

That’s not the only reason they should be confident. Milan is 7-2-1 and in its last 10 against the Neroverdi. Sassuolo did win the last match between these two sides in April at the San Siro. However, the Emilia-Romagna club is in much worse shape than it was then. With just 15 points so far, Sassuolo is eight points behind last season’s pace and have lost to Empoli and Udinese and drew Cagliari after a victory against Juve in late October.

Milan will be favored at home and it’ll likely take some magic from Domenico Berardi, who has torched the Rossoneri at times in his career for the Neroverdi to get any sort of result.

Other Matches:

  • Cagliari vs Salernitana: Friday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET
  • Empoli vs Fiorentina: Saturday 9:00 EST/15:00 CET
  • Sampdoria vs Hellas Verona: Saturday 9:00 EST/15:00 CET
  • Udinese vs Genoa: Sunday 6:30 EST/12:30 CET
  • Spezia vs Bolgna: Sunday 9:00 EST/15:00 CET