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.
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.
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
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, 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.
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