This is not only the first round after the break for international duty, with all that comes along with the strains of transcontinental travel and a packed fixture list, but it is also the one where we start to really see the big clubs come face-to-face in Serie A.
On paper, it’s a massive opportunity for Inter to break away at the top of the table, as they visit struggling Sampdoria, while their city rivals Milan have a potentially massive showdown with Maurizio Sarri’s free-scoring Lazio. Napoli also have a 100 per cent record and take on the shock of the campaign so far, a Juventus side in free-fall for reasons that go way beyond the departure of Capocannoniere Cristiano Ronaldo.
Juve are a strange beast, still lurching from the ill-fated attempts at beautiful football under Sarri and Andrea Pirlo, now back to Max Allegri’s more practical approach, but evidently in a bemused middle ground between the two. Which is, let’s be honest, where they have spent the last two seasons. Federico Chiesa is the only one who seems to bring any courage to proceedings, a role he has also accepted in the Italy squad post-UEFA EURO 2020.
Oddly, this fear of making a mistake appears to be more prevalent when facing the smaller, more defensive opponents, something Juve certainly won’t be experiencing in the trip to Naples. Both sides also tend to play out from the back, using the goalkeeper as an extra sweeper, with frankly poor results. A high press from both sides could lead to plenty of goals, or at least more attempts than we’ve seen from Juve recently.
Sarri’s curious tendency
Goals shouldn’t be an issue at San Siro, where Milan and Lazio have been churning out the high scores all campaign. Olivier Giroud picking up COVID-19 was a blow, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessie should be back in action for the Rossoneri.
Sarri has this curious tendency to start very strong with a new team, only for things to fall apart slightly as time wears on. It might be a similar situation at Lazio, where there are signs of creaking issues in the fact they have gone behind in the fourth minute to both Empoli and Spezia, only to go on and score nine goals in those two games.
Betting on the hosts opening the scoring should therefore be a given. At least he’s been able to rely on the Biancocelesti version of Ciro Immobile and not the pale imitation we see wearing an Italy jersey.
Fiorentina can surprise Atalanta
Gian Piero Gasperini’s teams are the polar opposite to Sarri, a diesel engine that needs to splutter into life before it really gets revving mid-season. Atalanta have been absolutely dreadful so far, yet still managed to squeeze out four barely-deserved points, so Fiorentina have every reason to feel confident going into Bergamo on Saturday.
La Dea also had so many players away on international duty that they’ll be even rustier and we could see a genuine upset at the Gewiss Stadium. Vincenzo Italiano has inspired the Viola with his all-attack approach and this should be a fascinating clash. I would not be surprised if Fiorentina came away with the full points.
Serie A week 3 fixtures
Saturday September 11
Empoli vs. Venezia
Napoli vs. Juventus
Atalanta vs. Fiorentina
Sunday September 12
Sampdoria vs. Inter
Cagliari vs. Genoa
Torino vs. Salernitana
Spezia vs. Udinese
Milan vs. Lazio
Roma vs. Sassuolo
Monday 13 September
Bologna vs. Verona