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Outside the Romaverse: Sassuolo Hosts Lazio Looking to Slay Another European Hopeful

The Neroverdi have taken points of some of the league’s best in recent weeks. Can they do it again against Sarri’s Lazio?

SS Lazio v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Silvia Lore/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Another match week ended in disappointing fashion for the Giallorossi as an injury and suspension depleted Roma side was schooled by reigning champions Inter Milan. It was the second consecutive league defeat for Roma and the club’s seventh of the season already. The loss put a big dent in the Giallorossi’s top-four hopes as they fell nine points behind fourth-place Atalanta.

That’s because La Dea pulled out a massive 3-2 come from behind victory at the San Paolo that reverberated through the Serie A table. With the Partenopei’s loss, Milan has moved into first place with Inter in second. Meanwhile, Atalanta sits just four back of the top in what now looks to be a four-horse race for the Scudetto.

Those four clubs are starting to look like they’re in a league of their own with La Dea holding a seven-point lead over the closest pursuers: Juventus and Fiorentina. If this keeps up for a few more weeks, then the Champions League race may be done and dusted sooner than anticipated.

This makes Roma's next three matches before the Christmas holiday crucial to their hopes of remaining within touching distance of not only the Champions League places but even the Europa League. The Giallorossi play the last match of the round on Monday night when they host relegation battling Spezia. It will be a must-win with fourth place Atalanta looming the following weekend.

The Giallorossi certainly have to focus on themselves and their own results from here on out as they try and right the ship. Nonetheless, they will also be dependent on the results of the teams ahead of them on the table if they are to claw their way back into the Champions League race.

So, let’s peruse the peninsula and see if any of the other big sides could be liable to slip up during a week with no big head-to-heads among European hopefuls.

Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 17 Previews

The Best Non-Roma Match

SS Lazio v US Sassuolo - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Marco Rosi - SS Lazio/Getty Images

Sassuolo vs Lazio: Sunday 12:00 EST/18:00 CET

In a match week that features no top-nine sides squaring off, this looks to be the most entertaining match of the weekend. In recent weeks, Sassuolo has defeated Milan and taken two points off Napoli. Yet, the Neroverdi’s inconsistencies saw them drop two points at Spezia last weekend.

Meanwhile, Lazio bounced back from dropping points in three straight by running over a struggling Sampdoria. The victory allowed Lazio to pull level with Roma: seventh in the standings on 25 points.

Both of these sides can score in bunches, but both also give up their fair share of goals. A case in point: Lazio is in the top five for most goals scored and most goals allowed. And since the start of November, Sassuolo has scored the second-most goals in the league (11), while Lazio has allowed the second-most (11).

This one should promise goals as league co-leader Ciro Immobile looks to continue his pursuit of another capocannoniere. Meanwhile, Italian youngsters Gianluca Scamacca and Giacomo Raspadori continue to make their cases as to why they should replace Immobile as Italy’s #9 come the World Cup qualifying playoff in the spring.

This one should be fun and we all know who to root for in what could be a shootout.

Other Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers

Bologna FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Fiorentina vs Salernitana: Saturday 9:00 EST/15:00 CET

It’s taken me a while to feature the Viola here, but after a win against unbeaten Milan a few weeks ago and now sitting joint fifth in the table, it’s time. With back-to-back victories over Samp and Bologna, Fiorentina is now ahead of Roma on the table and yet another threat to the Giallorossi’s European aspirations.

Fiorentina is a transformed team under head coach Vincenzo Italiano and star striker Dusan Vlahovic has been feasting on Serie A defenses. The young Serbian is joint top of the scoring charts with 13 and will present a tall task for bottom of the table Salernitana. The Campania-based side has given up 33 goals, which is second-most in the league, ahead of only Spezia— a side that Vlahovic tortured with a hat trick.

With just eight points in 16 matches—and after losses to Juventus and Milan in its last two fixtures—it’s hard to see a way for the newly-promoted side to build on that total in this one. Fiorentina is only the third side in 50 years to go 16 matches to open the season without a draw. It’s hard to imagine its first one coming in this match.

ITALY-TURIN-FOOTBALL-UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE- JUVENTUS VS MALMO Photo by Federico Tardito/Xinhua via Getty Images

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

Speaking of conceding goals, Venezia had a horror show last weekend when it blew a 3-0 lead to Verona, eventually losing 4-3. And bouncing back from that loss will be difficult when Juve comes to the canals of Venice this weekend.

The Bianconeri will come in feeling good about themselves having climbed up to 5th in the table and leapfrogging Chelsea to win their Champions League group earlier this week. And a big reason for their recent success stems from their ability to keep opposing attacks at bay.

Juve has kept clean sheets in four of their last five in the league. That doesn’t bode well for a Venezia side that has only scored 15 goals in 16 matches. Juve doesn’t score in bunches either (22 scored), but the Venezia defense has conceded plenty (29) this season.

This looks like one of those matches where Juve gets the first goal, locks it down, and then hits for a second on the counter. With Juve and Fiorentina likely winners this weekend, the pressure will be on Roma to keep pace by the end of the weekend.

Theo Hernandez of AC Milan seen in action during the Serie A... Photo by Fabrizio Carabelli/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Udinese vs AC Milan: Saturday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET

Milan finds itself entering the weekend top of the table as it travels to Friuli to take on Udinese. Milan will be heavily favored, but a couple of factors could help the hosts get an unexpected result.

First off, Udinese will be playing its first match under new manager Gabriele Cioffi after firing Luca Gotti. Udinese has drawn six of their last 10, which likely precipitated the managerial change. The firing of Gotti seemed a bit harsh, but the Zebrette could benefit from the new manager bounce.

Secondly, Milan was eliminated from European competition this week after losing to a heavily rotated Liverpool squad. The loss dropped Milan to fourth in the group, not only denying them a round of 16 place, which could’ve been achieved with a win, but also means they'll miss out on the Europa League entirely. That’s likely a boost to Milan’s Scudetto hopes in the long run but could have the Rossoneri primed for a hangover this weekend.

Hellas Verona FC v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Hellas Verona vs Atalanta: Sunday 9:00 EST/15:00 CET

This match is certainly one to keep a close eye on with Roma traveling to Bergamo next weekend. Verona is coming off its thrilling victory over Venezia, while Atalanta is one of the hottest teams in the league.

La Dea has won five straight, including victories against Juve and Napoli. That hot streak has the Bergameschi club within touching distance of the top of the league. However, in spite of their hot streak, La Dea crashed out of the Champions League with a disappointing home loss to Villarreal.

Verona’s victory in Venice has the Mastiffs sniffing the European places with 23 points in 10th spot. And Verona has been dangerous at home, going unbeaten in its last six at the Bentegodi (5W, 1D). Conversely, La Dea has one of the best road records in Europe this season (7W, 1D), only matched by Real Madrid in Europe's big five leagues. Something has got to give.

SSC Napoli v Leicester City: Group C - UEFA Europa League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Napoli vs Empoli: Sunday 12:00 EST/18:00 CET

Napoli enters this one licking its wounds a bit. The Partenopei were without five surefire starters in last weekend’s come from behind loss to Atalanta. But, that same depleted Napoli side bounced back with a gutsy rain-drenched victory against Leicester City in the Europa League. Napoli again blew a lead but was able to find the winner to secure advancement.

Luciano Spalletti’s side will be desperate to carry some momentum from Europe into this weekend’s league battle with Empoli after falling off its perch at the top of the table. The Tuscan side will be no pushover, though. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side has been one of the league’s surprise packages this season.

The newly-promoted club has been comfortable above the relegation zone so far and has shown no sign of being dragged into the relegation muck. Credit to Andreazzoli who has led the side to its second-best point total (23) through 16 matches after the departure of Alessio Dionisi to Sassuolo, thanks in part to a solid attack that has scored 23 times—a club record to this point.

Empoli hasn’t secured many of those points against top sides, but they did beat Juve early in the season and Fiorentina just a couple of weeks ago in dramatic fashion. So, despite Napoli entering as favorites, a side with this many absences and potentially heavy legs after Thursday’s rain-soaked pitch could be on upset alert. This could be a pivotal match for Napoli considering it's winless in its last five in the league and travels to the San Siro to play Milan next weekend.

Real Madrid v FC Internazionale: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Inter vs Cagliari: Sunday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET

This weekend’s calendar is loaded with plenty of likely mismatches. That being said, this is probably the biggest mismatch of all. Inter enters in scintillating form, now sitting just a point off the top. The Nerazzurri are unbeaten in eight straight in the league and haven’t lost since mid-October to Lazio, which is their only loss.

Inter has been the best home team thus far averaging 2.4 points per match. Conversely, Cagliari is the league’s worst road team averaging just 0.4 points per match. The Sardi have been able to stick in Italy’s top flight for quite some time, but they currently sit 18th. That position likely won’t improve after this weekend.

Other Matches:

  • Genoa vs Sampdora: Friday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET
  • Torino vs Bologna: Sunday 6:30 EST/12:30 CET

Poll

Which top half side is most likely to drop points this weekend?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Lazio (at Sassuolo)
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Fiorentina (vs Salernitana)
    (0 votes)
  • 7%
    Juve (at Venezia)
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Milan (at Udinese)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Inter (vs Cagliari)
    (0 votes)
  • 35%
    Atalanta (at Hellas)
    (5 votes)
  • 7%
    Napoli (vs Empoli)
    (1 vote)
14 votes total Vote Now