As we begin to close in on the midway point of the Serie A season, the table is beginning to take shape. Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atalanta, and Napoli have proven to be a step above the competition so far in the race for the coveted Champions League places. Meanwhile, Tuscan sides Fiorentina and Empoli have thrown their hats in the ring to challenge Italy’s usual European candidates Juve, Roma, and Lazio for the continent’s second and third-tier competitions.
Logic would suggest that upstart Empoli will eventually begin to fade into the mid-table scrum, but stranger things have happened than Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side sticking around until late into the season. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Italiano’s side is experiencing a rebirth in the cradle of the Renaissance and looks poised to take a European spot by the season’s end.
That’s why weekends like the last one are so key for Roma. The Giallorossi were able to dispatch Spezia, while four of the other European challengers dropped points to mid and lower table sides. The results caused a shift in the standings that now sees Inter at the top with Milan and Napoli slipping up after their torrid starts. Plus, Roma’s opponent this weekend, Atalanta, has been white-hot with six straight league wins.
The Giallorossi will certainly be up against it in Bergamo as Mourinho looks to break through against a top side for the first time as Roma CT. If the Giallorossi fail to pull out a shock win then their Champions League hopes will take another big hit and they could fall even further down the table with Juve, Empoli, and Lazio all within three points or less of Roma.
With that in mind, win, lose, or draw, Roma will be hoping for some help to either make a move on the sides above them or avoid losing ground to the teams below them in the table. So, while all of our focus will be on Saturday’s massive match in Bergamo, read on to see what the other challengers have on the agenda this weekend.
Perusing the Peninsula: Match Day 18 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
AC Milan vs Napoli- Sunday 2:45 EST/20:45 CET
Just a few weeks ago, this one looked like it would be a massive top-of-the-table clash between two sides running away from the competition. But, after both clubs started the campaign in blistering form, both have come back to Earth in recent weeks. Milan (2W-1D-2L) and Napoli (1W-1D-3L) are both desperate for a big win at the San Siro as they look to keep pace with the Nerazzurri.
A big reason for the drop in form is the fact that both sides are struggling with injuries. Both are without some key men, specifically their top defenders—Kjaer for Milan and Koulibaly for Napoli. That could mean plenty of opportunities to score for both sides, but someone will have to step up to finish the chances, especially for Napoli who will be without Victor Osimhen for some time still.
Milan will be favored at home and Napoli does have more key players out. However, the Partenopei have a few historical aspects working in their favor. For one, Milan has only won once in their last 13 head-to-heads with Napoli. Secondly, Luciano Spalletti is unbeaten against his counterpart Stefano Pioli in eight previous meetings.
With both sides’ star players stuck in the training room, this match could come down which manager flexes their tactical acumen better. Let’s see if the Tuscan can continue his dominance over Pioli in spite of a depleted roster.
Other Matches Featuring European Challengers
Lazio vs Genoa- Friday 12:00 EST/ 18:00 CET
This match features two struggling sides as Lazio fell to ninth with its loss to big side slaying Sassuolo. The loss was Lazio’s third in its last five. Meanwhile, Genoa just can’t buy a victory. The Grifoni are winless since the beginning of October (5D-6L) and are coming off a derby loss to rivals Sampdoria.
This one should promise goals though. The last ten Serie A matches between these two have featured 42 goals. That trend should continue as these two sides have two of the worst defensive records in the league. In fact, the Biancoceleste have conceded 13 times in their last five leading to them falling behind Empoli to ninth in the table.
Salernitana vs Inter MIlan- Friday 2:45 EST/ 20:45 CET
There might not be a more uneven match-up all season in Italy’s top flight. Inter is flying high and the defending champs, who have lost only once, now sit atop the Serie A table. Conversely, Salernitana remains in last with just eight points through 17 matches. The Campania-based side is quite possibly one of the worst teams in Serie A history. There’s not much to say about this one other than anything but an Inter rout would be a shocker.
Bologna vs Juventus- Saturday 12:00 EST/ 18:00 CET
Juve travels to the Renato Dall’Ara on Saturday just four points ahead of host Bologna. It’s not what many would have predicted through 17 weeks of the Serie A season, but that’s the reality for the most inconsistent Bianconeri side in over a decade.
Juve enters this one coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw against newly-promoted Venezia making this one a must-win if Allegri’s side wants to stay within touching distance of the Champions League places. Bologna enters this match having lost back-to-back games, but hasn’t lost three straight in over a year. Juve’s defense has conceded just two goals in its last six, so this one will likely shape up to a low-scoring affair.
Fiorentina vs Sassuolo- Sunday 6:30 EST/ 12:30 CET
It’s too bad that this match is so early on a Sunday for us North American viewers because it could shape up to be a fun one. There should be plenty of goals with both teams’ attacks clicking. Dusan Vlahovic leads the league in scoring for Fiorentina, while the Italian trio of Domenico Berardi, Giacomo Raspadori, and Gianluca Scamacca are hot for Sassuolo.
In recent weeks, Sassuolo has taken points from four European hopefuls (Juve, Napoli, Milan, Lazio), so Fiorentina should be wary when the Neroverdi come to the Artemio Franchi. Meanwhile, the Viola have won three straight in the league and are looking to win their fourth straight for the first time since 2016. Sassuolo has been a tough task for Fiorentina in recent seasons—winning just once and losing four times. Roma would certainly love to see the Neroverdi continue this good form and hand yet another competitor an L.
- Cagliari vs Udinese- Saturday 2:45 EST/ 20:45 CET
- Spezia vs Empoli- Sunday 9:00 EST/ 15:00 CET
- Torino vs Verona- Sunday 12:00 EST/ 18:00 CET
- Sampdoria vs Venezia- Sunday 12:00 EST/ 18:00 CET