Serie A isn’t taking long to heat back up after the international break, with three huge matches this weekend. Derby della Madonnina takes precedence due to its storied history, as well as the fact that both teams are in the process of rebuilding projects with the aim of reaching the top of Italian football.
However, the other big games are just as important. Napoli travel to the capital as they aim to continue their flawless run by beating an improving Roma side. Their main challengers Juventus host a Lazio side who have already beaten them once this season in the Supercoppa Italiana.
Inter v. AC Milan
The derby matches are the highlight of the season for both teams, but this is a must-win for AC Milan. They have already lost three matches in the league this season, and the pressure is mounting on Vincenzo Montella.
A win is crucial if they want to keep tabs with the top four because they are four points behind. They could really benefit from the other games if they are victorious; it would also take credence away from the idea that they are poor in big games.
Inter are likely to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation which Luciano Spalletti has favoured in his time at the club. Borja Valero will be important because of how he can orchestrate from deep central areas. His ability to control the match will be key because Milan have repeatedly buckled under pressure this season.
Milan usually play in a 3-5-2 formation, but this hasn’t worked well against Sampdoria or Roma. Montella tweaked the setup between both matches, but it had little effect. Usually, Hakan Çalhanoğlu is the chief playmaker. He occupies the space between the lines with the two strikers taking the attention of the central defence.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Montella opt for a 3-4-3 formation. This would get the best out of Leonardo Bonucci, and would help nullify Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perišić by enabling the defence to double up on them. They are also without Çalhanoğlu due to suspension, so they can afford to play without a traditional ‘No. 10’.
Roma v. Napoli
This is a must-watch because it’s Napoli’s first major test of the season. The league seems to be their focus with Atalanta and Lazio being the only significant opponents they have played. These matches ended 3-1 and 4-1 respectively to the Partenopei, which is a common theme because they have won every league match this season.
Roma have been impressive as well with five wins out of six. The only loss came against Inter. They have played one game less because a match with Sampdoria was suspended due to extreme weather.
Both teams have favoured 4-3-3 formations and are unlikely to alter for their opponents due to both managers having a clear vision of how they want to play. Roma are a side that prioritise defensive solidity at the expense of entertainment, which they provided plenty of last season, while Napoli are the most entertaining side in Europe. It’s an interesting contrast that should make this an exciting game.
Most chances created in Europe's top 5 leagues this season:
Real Madrid (119)
The key battle will be down Roma’s right side because that is the main area for Napoli’s creativity. They like to create overloads in that area which pulls the opposition out of shape; this isolates the defender on the other side with José Callejón. Reducing the effectiveness of Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens in this area will be key because the Giallorossi are unlikely to win the midfield battle.
A win in the capital would be a huge statement from Maurizio Sarri’s men in regards to their title credentials.
Juventus v. Lazio
La Vecchia Signora will be looking to bounce back after a draw with Atalanta prior to the international break. The Biancocelesti managed to get revenge on Juventus, after their 2-0 loss in the Coppa Italia final, with a dramatic 3-2 victory in the Supercoppa Italiana at the beginning of the season. Juventus thought they altered the balance of the match after two goals from Paulo Dybala in the last five minutes which brought them level. However, it wasn’t to be as Alessandro Murgia scored a last-minute winner for Lazio.
Massimiliano Allegri favours a 4-2-3-1 formation for Juventus with Mario Mandžukić acting as a hybrid winger/second striker while Simone Inzaghi sets his team up in a 3-5-2 formation. Dybala, the top goalscorer in the league this season with 10 goals, is the key player for Juventus. He has struggled when closely man-marked, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lucas Leiva given this role.
Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinković-Savić are the key players for Lazio. Immobile is the main goal threat with nine goals and Milinković-Savić is important because he ensures that Immobile and Luis Alberto aren’t isolated. He provides the link between those two and midfield which allows the team to sacrifice width up front.
Juventus need to win this game in order to either catch up with Napoli or at least ensure that there isn’t a significant gap between them. This could cause them to be more open than usual, which Lazio could exploit on the counter, so it should be another entertaining affair in an exciting weekend.