What a football Saturday! Juve-Lazio opens, the Inter-Milan derby opens at 6pm, Napoli closes away at Genoa


By John

Inzaghi and Pioli’s dream is to continue their journey with full points on the eve of their debut in the Champions League. It’s a premature and fascinating derby, today’s match between Inter and Milan, which will have to act as an advertisement for Italian football to return head-on in the cups in which they excelled last season, only to succumb in the three finals. The derby, which comes a few days after the timid progress made by Spalletti’s national team, it is the highlight of a high-level round that will also see Juventus and Lazio face each other on the one hand, and Fiorentina and Atalanta on the other while Napoli will have to show signs of recovery in Genoa after the home defeat, and Roma will have to look for their first victory by hosting Empoli to chase away the ghosts of a looming crisis.

In Milan you can smell the Europe that counts, with two teams strengthened by an ambitious and intelligent market, with the Rossoneri wanting to erase the curse of the four derbies in a few months. Inter are better at it, having a proven set-up with the successful inclusion of Thuram who made Dzeko and Lukaku forget, forming a very popular duo with Lautaro. Inzaghi then has the wildcard Frattesi to play for, who dragged Spalletti’s national team and who so far has only played parts of matches in the new team. Milan have found a trio of successful new players in Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders, but there are a couple of shortcomings in the powerful squad: in the absence of Tomori, Kjaer will have to be dusted off in defence, while in attack they must always count on an in-form Giroud full efficiency, given that the alternatives Okofor and Jovic do not seem to enjoy the trust of the coach and the team. Small flaws in a balanced challenge that will also be enhanced with many mini duels: Leao-Darmian, Giroud-De Vrij, Pulisic-Bastoni, Tiaw-Lautaro, Loftus-Cheek-Barella and above all Hernandez-Dumfries, particularly awaited after the sparks of the last year and the expulsion of the AC Milan players. Juve and Lazio are sharpening their weapons for a delicate match. After having enchanted Maradona, Sarri wants to be missed in Turin too, he has a growing team which however must provide continuity of results. The Bianconeri are also counting on being able to save energy by not competing in the cups and want to profit from the derby which will take points away from the leaders. Rabiot and Luis Alberto, the two driving forces, will try to invent assists to enhance the goal challenges between Chiesa and Zaccagni and between Vlahovic and Immobile.

The tile Pogba and the soap opera Bonucci don’t seem capable of distracting the Bianconeri. The streak of Nico Gonzalez and Scamacca, the tactical wisdom of Arthur and De Roon and the finishing of Bonaventura and Koopmeiners enhance the match between Fiorentina and Atalanta while Napoli tries to overcome the shortcomings seen against Lazio but the doubt begins to creep in that Natan and Cajuste are questionable additions. Garcia feels De Laurentiis breathing down his neck, so they need three points at Gilardino’s Genoa. Even more pressing is the imperative for Mourinho’s Roma, which presents Lukaku and Dybala together for the first time, against last-place Empoli, the only team that has so far done worse than the Giallorossi. The debut of the Zapata-Sanabria pair is the extra weapon that Juric plays in Torino’s commitment, ambitious but for now alternating, at home to Salernitana di Candreva who are still struggling with the mysterious absences of Dia.

The three biggest surprises of the first rounds are looking for confirmation: D’Aversa’s Lecce is still hoping for a feat from Kstrovic to continue their run against Monza, who have shown signs of recovery and can count on Colombo. Baroni’s Verona returns home and receives Thiago Motta and Ferguson’s Bologna who cannot count on Saelemaekers. Di Francesco, leading a Frosinone team in excellent form, finds Berardi and the Sassuolo team he helped launch at high levels on his path. For a few days now an honorary citizen of Cagliari, Claudio Ranieri wants to repay the affection and esteem received by celebrating his first victory in Serie A in the survival challenge against Sottil’s Udinese, who seem far from the condition and results of last year.