With Roma flying high into the international break, the last two weeks have felt like an eternity for Romanisti impatiently waiting for the return of Mourinho’s wolf pack. The Giallorossi are one of five teams in the league to start the season with two victories. And it looks like the top of the table will be just as competitive as last season, if not more. So, head-to-head matchups between the league’s top sides will be vital in determining the final league standings.
So, it’s never too early to focus on the big matchups in the league. And after the long international break, the league calendar has rewarded our yearning for some calcio with a few high-profile matchups on matchday 3.
While most of our attention will be focused on Roma hosting Sassuolo at the Olimpico on Sunday evening (full preview here), there are some other heavy hitters to whet your appetite for high-quality calcio if you have some free time this weekend.
We’ve got you covered here on CdT with previews of the top matchups this weekend. So, read on to find out what to look out for, and be sure to let us know who you think will win these key early-season fixtures.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 3 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
Napoli vs Juventus: Saturday 12:00EDT/18:00CET
While there are a few attractive matches for the neutral observer this weekend, Napoli hosting Juve certainly takes the cake. Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli is off to a perfect start, but the Partenopei needed a late goal to see their way past Genoa 2-1 prior to the international break. Napoli was given a big boost when striker Victor Osimhen’s two-match suspension was reduced to one following an appeal of his week 1 red card.
Juventus on the other hand is off to a rough start in Max Allegri’s return to the Bianconero bench. The Old Lady squandered a 2-0 lead in Udine on Matchday 1, dropping two points in the process. Then things went from bad to worse when Empoli came to the Allianz Arena and shocked Juve 1-0 at the Old Lady’s once indomitable fortress. With only one point through two matches, Allegri will be desperate for a result to avoid falling 8 points off the pace. However, it won’t be easy with a number of key players including Federico Chiesa, Paulo Dybala, and Alex Sandro ruled out.
With so many key players out of his squad, an already pragmatic Max Allegri will likely set up to defend and counter in what will be a hostile Stadio Maradona, even at 50% capacity. To break down the low block, Napoli will need to play quick passes and make smart runs that stretch the Juve back line. Victor Osimhen could be the difference maker after winning his appeal, resulting in his two-game suspension between reduced to one. However, he will need to stay focused and keep his composure against the master of the dark arts, Giorgio Chiellini.
Although Allegri is undoubtedly short some of his best players he will need to play his best available players at his disposal. No more large tinkering with the lineup.
1. Chiellini is a must start for me in this one (his leadership and experience is irreplaceable).
2. You know Napoli will try to beat Juve with pace up top, the fullbacks and the midfielders must try to neutralize this and must not give away possession cheaply as we have seen (too many times) before.
3. The likes of Morata/Kean/Kulusevski will need to have big performances and finish their chances because they may not get too many.
4. Target Mario Rui and New midfield buy Frank Anguissa.
5. And your favourite former Roma goalie Szczesny must play up to par!
Other Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers
AC Milan vs Lazio: Sunday 12:00 EDT/ 18:00 CET
Most weeks this match would undoubtedly be the must-watch match of the week. However, this weekend it takes the passenger seat to the big match at the Maradona. That doesn’t mean that if you have some time to kill before the Roma match that you shouldn’t tune in while you eat lunch on Sunday though. This match features two of the five teams that are perfect after two match days, so something has got to give.
Lazio is off to a flying start under Maurizio Sarri’s guidance. The Biancoceleste half of Rome has to be feeling good after putting up a combined nine goals in their first two matches, which is a new club record. However, those two were against likely relegation battlers Empoli and Spezia, so this one will present an entirely different challenge.
For its part, Milan followed up a hard-fought 1-0 win in match week one against Sampdoria by putting up a four-spot at Cagliari prior to the break. There is a chance that Zlatan Ibrahimovic could make his first start of the season after a long injury layoff in this one—something that could give the Rossoneri an added boost. Another advantage in this one could be the San Siro, as Milan has only lost one of its last 31 home matches against Lazio.
Atalanta vs Fiorentina: Saturday 14:45 EDT/ 20:45 CET
On the surface, this match-up may not look all that impressive due to the Viola’s struggles in recent seasons. However, Fiorentina made some under-the-radar moves to improve its squad this summer. One of which was bringing in Lucas Torreira from Arsenal, who could make his debut on Saturday.
The Viola bounced back from its 3-1 opening weekend loss to Roma by defeating Torino 2-1. Atalanta meanwhile has had some early-season struggles despite its 1-0-1 unbeaten start. La Dea scraped by Torino on the road 2-1 thanks to a 93rd-minute winner from academy graduate Roberto Piccoli in its opening match. That was followed up with a 0-0 draw against Bologna. La Dea will be looking to pick up its scoring in this one without Luis Muriel.
1) Win the key matchup of Palomino vs Vlahovic. Palomino needs to get under Dusan’s skin. He needs to frustrate the young striker and force him to drop deep to be involved in play.
2) Freuler and Pasalic/Pessina need to make life difficult for the Viola’s midfield. High press to prevent transition and regain possession high up the pitch.
3) Toloi and Maehle/Zappacosta need to ensure that Biraghi is shut down well. Don’t allow crosses from the left side.
4) Duvan needs to play to make life difficult for the Fiorentina defense. Is he fit enough? Piccoli is a poacher and doesn’t do what Duvan does in running the channels, pressing and also physically tiring out the opposition CBs.
5) Lastly, which Malinovskyi is going to show up? If he starts, he needs to move the ball quicker and not lose possession. Fiorentina is unlikely to play a low block, so he needs to make quick decisions in transition.
Sampdoria vs Inter Milan: Sunday 6:30 EDT/ 12:30 CET
Not many will be up early for this one in the Americas, but if you happen to be an early bird Inter travels to Samp for the lunchtime kick-off in Italy. The defending champs are the last of the five sides with a perfect record and will look to take advantage of some of the other big sides potentially dropping points in the other key matches. The Nerazzurri haven’t missed Romelu Lukaku thus far—scoring seven goals in victories over Genoa and Hellas Verona. Inter has scored in 21 straight matches, just two shy of the club record.
Samp meanwhile has just one point through its first two matches under new manager Roberto D’Aversa. The Blucerchiati have only allowed one goal thus far, but have been unable to score through two matches. They’ve never gone three matches without scoring to open a season, so the onus will be on veterans Caputo and Quagliarella to find the back of the net.
- Venezia vs Empoli: Saturday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Cagliari vs Genoa: Sunday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Torino vs Salernitana: Sunday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Spezia vs Udinese: Sunday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Bologna vs Verona : Monday 14:45 EDT/ 20:45 CET