Serie A: Big Weekend For The Big Four

Eric Giardini peeks in on the big games in Bootsville this weekend.

It’s not just Michael Bradley and Chievo. The Serie A season is just starting heat-up.

Difference.....maker.

Inter v Napoli

Inter Team News

The weekend kicks off with a bang in Italy as Napoli travel to Milan to take on a resurgent Inter side. After Claudio Ranieri took the reins following the sacking of Gian Piero Gasperini last week, Inter is a perfect two for two and new life has been breathed into the club. In classic Ranieri style, he has brought tactical stability to the lineup and has Inter back to playing with four at the back – something that Gasperini would not budge on and what ultimately led to his demise.

Everyone at the club seems to be in love with Ranieri and have credited the revival primarily to him. President Massimo Moratti earlier stated “Ranieri started well, really above and beyond all expectations” and, according to Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo, the reason is simple. “He’s a good man and a great coach. We all like him.” This general sentiment wasn’t felt about Gasperini and is what may have attributed to the Inter players not buying into his system or playing hard for him. Unfortunately for Ranieri, the knock against him has never been that he wasn’t a pleasure to be around. The biggest complaint was that he would get you to second place and never get you beyond that (See Chelsea, Juventus, Roma). Inter striker Giampaolo Pazzini is a major doubt to face Napoli after spraining his ankle in Inter’s 3-2 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

Napoli Team News

For Napoli, things could not be better at the club. They see themselves fourth in the league table and are flying high after their 2-0 home victory over Villarreal on Tuesday which puts them second in their Champions League “Group of Death.” Unfortunately, star attacker, and club leading scorer, Edinson Cavani picked up an ankle injury that looks to keep him out of Saturday’s match. Cavani’s replacement if he can’t go could be Goran Pandev, the on loan man from Inter.

Prediction

Both clubs are hitting their stride at the moment so I’m expecting an entertaining match. I’m going to give the edge Napoli for no other reason than for the fact it seems Walter Mazzarri, and his unique style, seems to get the better of Ranieri in their head-to-head matchups. 1-2 Napoli

Juventus v AC Milan

 Milan

This vintage Cassano pic is always in style at TSG...

In Sunday afternoon’s match, AC Milan make their first trip to the new Juventus Stadium in Turin. Not having lost yet this season, Juventus comes into the match at the top of the league while Milan is sitting midtable (currently in 12th) having just won their first match this past weekend. Zlatan Ibrahimović, who made his return for Milan in the midweek Champions League against Viktoria Plzen, should again lead the line for Milan who are in desperate need of attackers. With Pato and Robinho on the sidelines, Milan will look to match Antonio Cassano with Ibrahimović up top.

Juventus

Juventus, who have won both league matches thus far in their new stadium, will be looking to build on their early season momentum and try to put more distance between themselves and other title challengers. The Juventus lineup should remain relatively the same as last week in their draw away to Catania with the only exception seeing Simone Pepe return to the starting lineup in place of Eljero Elia.

Prediction

Although Juventus is unbeaten this season, they have not faced a team that is currently higher than ninth in the table. While Milan sits 12th, they are by no means 12th place squad. The return of Ibrahimović should bring some much needed firepower to a side that is having trouble finding the back of the net in recent weeks. However, it won’t be enough to give Milan all three points on the road. 2-2

    

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/09/29 at 1:25 PM

    Lot of pressure on Milan, no? I know it’s early doors, but that’s part and parcel of playing for a big club where the expectation level is hight. They haven’t had the best of starts.

    Plus, correct me if I am wrong, Milan are in Europe whereas Juventus aren’t? So, how fresh do you think Milan will be?

    Any news on Pato? I don’t remember seeing him midweek, so assumed he was injured. Not sure about your Elia prediction, I think he starts. Also, the Pirlo subplot will be interesting. S seems weird seeing him in a non-Milan top…

    Reply

  2. Posted by EFG on 2011/09/29 at 7:13 PM

    There is always pressure on Milan because, as you said, it comes with the territory. No, they haven’t had the best start but they haven’t had the best luck with injuries – especially to their front line. That being said, it is still early going and although they sit midtable, only 3 points separate them and the leaders. I think it’s a little too early to hit the panic button just yet. You are correct, Milan is in Europe and Juventus just missed out on the Europa League. I don’t think fatigue will be a major factor this weekend. They were able to rotate their back line and midfield for their match against Viktoria. Pato is out with a hamstring that he aggravated last week against Udinese and he’s expected to miss a month.

    Regarding Elia v Pepe: For some reason, Pepe is repeatedly chosen for starting lineups no matter where he’s been. It’s odd, he’s like the Italian Bornstein.

    Finally, I completely spaced on Pirlo joining Juventus over the summer. Not my finest moment. It will be interesting but since it is in Turin I don’t think it’ll be as much of a distraction as it will be when he returns to Milan for the first time.

    Reply

  3. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/09/30 at 10:43 AM

    I did not know that Juventus are the only Italian club to actually own their own stadium. Will this be the turning point in Italian football in terms of increasing matchday revenue to be in line as a percentage of total revenue, withthe rest of Europe? I have been to some big grounds in the US and Europe and the hospitalty management aspect is fantastic. I haven’t been to an Italian match since the 90s, but I didn’t think too much about this as it wasn’t too different for what I was used to.

    What are your thoughts about this, and how do you think the Milan and Rome clubs will be about to compete financially?

    Reply

    • Posted by EFG on 2011/09/30 at 12:21 PM

      I’m excited about Juventus’ new stadium. The pictures I’ve seen are fantastic and it is going to serve as the tipping point for other clubs around the country to begin looking into their own stadium for the increased revenue.

      I haven’t seen anything about the Milanese clubs in terms of a new stadium but Roma have been vocal about building a new stadium. The new regime has begun talks with the city over possible locations and have, to what I’ve seen, been looking at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and Reliant Stadium in Houston as “models.” Whatever path is taken, I’m on board as long as they get rid of that track. I don’t know what Lazio will do, but there were talks back in 2008 about a new stadium, which obviously hasn’t come to fruition. If both Roman clubs leave the Olimpico, I wonder what will happen. They might keep it since it is a UEFA Category 4 stadium, but I don’t know.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/10/02 at 12:05 PM

        Juventus’ stadium looks fantastic. Considering the general trend for selling the stadium’s naming rights, is there a law in Italy preventing this? Also, why did they only build a stadium with a capacity of 41,000 [obviously there are more luxury boxe$ etc]? I am guessing their pricing policy will be in-line with other European heavyweights…

        Reply

        • Posted by EFG on 2011/10/04 at 7:32 AM

          There is, or was, an agreement with Sportfive Italia, who according to their site is “the European leader in the field of sports rights marketing” to provide Sportfive the “exclusive naming and partial promotional and sponsorship rights for the stadium. The agreement allows Sportfive to exclusively sell the naming rights and to market the sky boxes. Why there isn’t a name yet, I’m not sure of but it appears they are looking for a sponsor.

          Regarding the attendance capacity, the average attendance at the Stadio Delle Alphi (which held 67,000) often hovered around 1/3 full and on numerous occasions they would give away tickets to matches – including Champions League ones. When they moved to the Stadio Olimpico in 2006, and shared it with rival Torino, the low capacity (about 27k) annoyed people. 41,000 seems to be the magic number. Interestingly enough, the initial revenue numbers just came out: €4.2m in ticket sales after 3 matches this year as comapred to only €1.2m last year. Projections have Juventus pocketing approximately €27m by season’s end – or about €15m MORE than last year.

          Reply

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