Another exciting weekend of Serie A action is in the books. Well, almost, as Napoli plays Monday Night Football against Udinese in Friuli. But, don’t blink now because we have midweek fixtures in Serie A this week, and match week five kicks off quickly on Tuesday.
It was a bag of mixed results for the top sides in the Serie A table this weekend. Roma’s loss to Hellas Verona was the shocker of the weekend. Not far behind was Lazio dropping two points to relegation zone Cagliari. Meanwhile, the much anticipated big match between Juve and Milan ended in a 1-1 draw. It was a positive result for a struggling Juve side, but depending on Napoli’s result on Monday, the Bianconeri could find themselves as many as 10 points off the top.
With Roma and Milan dropping points, only the Partenopei could finish matchday four with a perfect record. The Rossoneri remain unbeaten though, as does Inter, the Nerazzurri were the biggest beneficiary of the draw at the Allianz and the dropped points by the Roman clubs. The other big winner was Atalanta, who was able to narrow the gap a bit after a slow start.
With Bologna being humbled, keep an eye on Udinese. If the Zebrette can upset Napoli on Monday, they would join Fiorentina as one of the early-season surprises. Jose Mourinho and Co will be watching that game intently for another reason though, as Roma will try to rebound from Sunday’s disappointing defeat against the Friuli side at the Olimpico on Thursday.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 5 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
Fiorentina vs Inter Milan: Tuesday 14:45EDT/20:45CET
Heading into the season, I don’t know if anyone expected to see Fiorentina with 9 points through four matches. But, La Viola has been one of the surprise outfits in the league early on. Vincenzo Italiano’s side has now won three on the trot since losing to Roma to open the league campaign at the Olimpico.
The Viola continued their fine run of form by defeating Genoa at the Marassi on Saturday, 2-1. Italiano’s side dominated possession and won behind goals from Riccardo Saponara and Giacomo Bonaventura. The contribution of goals from the midfielders will be a welcome sign for a side that relied heavily on young striker Dusan Vlahovic to do the bulk of the scoring last season.
For its part, Inter enters with an unbeaten record (3W, 1D) and is provincially joint top of the table with rivals Milan (depending on Napoli’s result). Over the weekend, Inter ran roughshod over Bologna, 6-1. Inter struck within six minutes through Latauro Martinez and led 3-0 by the half before pouring it on in the second half when Edin Dzeko scored a brace. The defending champs continue to prove that they are still Scudetto favorites despite losing Romelu Lukaki, Achraf Hakimi, and manager Antonio Conte and lead the league with 15 goals scored.
With the form these two sides are in, this one could prove to be a thriller in the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Fiorentina Match Keys Courtesy of Tito of Viola Nation
First of all, it’s crazy to me that Fiorentina vs anybody has captured league-wide interest, considering how the past half decade has looked for this team. To that end, the most important thing, I think, is for the players to continue sticking to the identity that Vincenzo Italiano has given them and not revert to the passive-at-worst-reactive-at-best mindset the players settled into over the last few years. That means being proactive and fearless both with and without the ball and not shrinking in the face of the reigning champions.
More specifically, it’s going to require a really good, focused game from the back line. They lost that focus late against Genoa, allowing a really dumb penalty at the death; that means the club is yet to keep a clean sheet this year and is facing Serie A’s best attack (3.75 goals per game so far). While Edin Džeko remains dangerous, he’s not a threat in behind, so marshaling Lautaro Martínez will be particularly important since Italiano likes to play a high line.
The final aspect is getting something out of the attack. Nico González is Serie A’s most fouled player, but he might not be fit after getting kicked as per usual against Genoa. That means someone will have to help Dušan Vlahović, although you wouldn’t bet on the big man having two quiet games in a row, especially since Italiano’s scheme seems to generate plenty of chances and Fiorentina have played Inter surprisingly tough for the past few years.
Going into the Artemio Franchi to face Fiorentina mid-week will be Inter’s toughest test in Serie A thus far. Inter have started the season well against lesser competition, most recently hammering Bologna 6-1 at the Giuseppe Meazza.
Vincenzo Italiano has Fiorentina off to a flying start, showing what a difference competent coaching can make.
Inter will need to find consistency from their new duo at wingback. Denzel Dumfries, the right wingback, made his first start in black and blue against Genoa and looked sensational. He assisted a pair of goals, constantly getting into dangerous areas on the ball and delivering pinpoint accurate crosses.
On the opposite side, Federerico DiMarco put in a great shift at left wingback. Federico and Denzel appear to be Inter’s best pairing. Will Inzaghi give them another go, or will he choose some rotation to honor the congested fixture list?
The biggest area of concern for Inter, from my perspective, will be goal-scoring.
The Nerazzurri’s biggest challenge yet was their Champions League group stage opener against Real Madrid. Inter lost the game 0-1 and could not find the back of the net despite good chances created by Lautaro and Dzeko. The attack looked toothless. Not enough ideas. Not clinical enough. It felt much different from the times when Romelu Lukaku was holding up play and drawing two defenders near the box.
Against Fiorentina, the ball cannot stop moving. With Correa picking up a knock against Bologna (just a contusion) I can expect he’ll be rested for the Atalanta game at the weekend. We’ll likely see Lautaro and Dzeko starting up front with Alexis coming on as an impact sub.
If Inter can maintain the form they showed in a brilliant performance against Bologna, they can definitely take all 3 points in Florence. Creative attacks from the likes of Brozovic, Calhanoglu and the wingbacks will be needed to confuse the Viola defense.
Expect Inter’s best back three with Handanovic in net. Hakan Calhanoglu will likely return to the starting X to join Barella and Brozovic in the three man midfield.
It won’t be an easy one, but if Inter plays their game, they can come away with a 3-1 victory at Fiorentina.
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Other Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers
Atalanta vs Sassuolo: Tuesday 14:45EDT/20:45CET
La Dea is off to a bit of a slow start to the season. However, a 1-0 victory over bottom of the table Salernitana secured a valuable three points for Atalanta, which now has 7 points through four matches. Despite the victory, there’s still some reason to worry for Gianpiero Gasperini as his side generated just three shots on target against a porous Salernitana defense. Perhaps it was Champions League hangover, but La Dea has now scored just four times in four matches.
Sassuolo on the other hand is coming off a disappointing home defeat at the hands of Torino on Friday evening. After going toe-to-toe and generating plenty of quality scoring chances against Roma on matchday 3, Sassuolo’s talented attack was held to just two shots on target by Juric’s men. Atalanta has only allowed three goals thus far, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Neroverdi can generate more offense against what has been a stalwart defense.
This one may be overshadowed by Fiorentina-Inter since they kick off at the same time, but it could make for a fascinating match-up.
Spezia vs Juventus: Wednesday 12:30EDT/18:30CET
Juventus managed to get its second point of the season after holding previously perfect Milan to a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena on Sunday. It was the second consecutive positive result for Allegri’s side after a Champions League victory over Malmo. However, the fact remains, Juve is now winless in league play through four matches. With just two points, Juve has now dropped to 18th in the table and will be desperate for its first win against Spezia.
Spezia is coming off a big win at Venezia on Sunday morning—their first of the season. It was a crucial win against a side which Spezia will likely be battling with to avoid relegation. Despite the win, which should give Spezia some confidence, the fact remains that Tiago Motta’s side has one of the worst defenses in the league so far with 10 goals conceded. That could be good news for a Juve side that has struggled to score with just four goals scored in four matches.
AC Milan vs Venezia: Wednesday 14:45EDT/20:45CET
Milan may have dropped its first points of the season against Juve on Sunday. Nevertheless, with the way the match played out, Ante Rebic’s goal to level the match and take a point back to Lombardy must feel like a small victory for the Rossoneri. By sharing the spoils Milan remains joint top (depending on Napoli’s Monday result) and kept Juve buried down near the bottom of the table. And the midweek fixture will provide Pioli’s side with a great chance to continue its unbeaten start to the season.
That’s because newly promoted Venezia makes a trip to the San Siro. As previously mentioned, Venezia is coming off a very disappointing home loss to previously winless Spezia. The loss means that Paolo Zanetti’s side has now lost three of its first four matches. Venezia has been struggling to score with just three goals in four matches. And to make matters worse, it comes up against a Milan backline that has conceded just twice so far.
Torino vs Lazio: Thursday 12:30EDT/18:30CET
Roma wasn’t the only team from the Italian capital to come away with a disappointing result on Sunday. Rivals Lazio salvaged a disappointing 2-2 draw with 19th place Cagliari thanks to a late Danilo Cataldi goal. Similar to Roma, the Biancoceleste have had no problem scoring under new manager Maurizio Sarri with 11 goals in four matches. However, there still remains work to be done on the defensive end having conceded six times.
Torino had an impressive victory over Sassuolo on Friday. And Torino is now 2-0-2 under new manager Ivan Juric. We’ve seen the magic Juric is capable of at Hellas Verona in previous seasons and his work is already beginning to bear fruit in Piedmont. After losing 2-1 to Atalanta and Fiorentina in its first two matches, Toro has kept back-to-back clean sheets. This match could be an interesting litmus test for Juric and his defense.
- Bologna vs Genoa: Tuesday 12:30 EDT/ 18:30 CET
- Salernitana vs Verona: Wednesday 12:30 EDT/ 18:30 CET
- Cagliari vs Empoli: Wednesday 14:45 EDT/ 20:45 CET
- Sampdoria vs Napoli: Thursday 12:30 EDT/ 18:30 CET