It’s crunch time in Serie A, as clubs must play three games in the span of 8 days this week, and even more over the next eleven days if they are playing in international competitions.

It’s a Bad Month to Be a Milan Fan: Not only is rival Inter atop the Serie A standings, Milan lost yesterday to Udinese for its second defeat on the year.  The Rossoneri have 4 points out of a possible 9 this month so far, and as Gareth reports their big off-season signing has been more of a frustration than an asset so far this year.  On top of all this are the continuous rumors of a possible sale.  The match versus Bari on Sunday looms large for the psyche of this club.  (Update: this news can’t help).

Getting Sent to the Stands is the Cool Thing to Do: On Sunday it was Inter’s Jose Morinho being sent off during his team’s victory over Cagliari.  On Wednesday it was new Atalanata manager Antonio Conte being sent off before the final whistle (although his team did not achieve the same result as Morinho’s).  I hope this does not become a trend with managers; in the U.S. basketball coaches tend to push for technical fouls to inspire a team but so many coaches do it that it has lost its impact on most players.  Managers should save their tirades for rare opportunities to inspire their team at the right time.

Sampdoria Comes Down From Its Pedestal: Fiorentina won convincingly in their match against the “top” team in Serie A and kicked off Sampdoria’s toughest stretch of their schedule by beating the visitors.  Fiorentina dominated in pretty much every statistical category, but the season is still young, Blucerchaiti fans.  I am as much of a fan of underdogs as the next person, but I doubt Sampdoria can keep up its quest for a top four finish and a scudetto.

Russo Replaces Papadopulo on the Hot Seat: The 2-0 Bologna victory over Livorno helped take some of the pressure off Bologna manager Giuseppe Papadopulo, whose side now has five points on the year and who personally had received a deadly “vote of confidence” from Bologna’s management earlier in the week.  This victory was at the expense of Vittorio Russo’s Livorno club, who now sits in relegation territory with only two points on the year.  When will Russo receive the same “vote of confidence”?  His club needs some good results in the upcoming weeks against Palermo and Siena.

English Soccer is Infinitely More Popular in the US than Italian calcio: As an American resident looking at the front pages of the ESPN and Fox Soccer websites on Wednesday evening, I was struck by the dominance of analysis of the Carling Cup results and lack of focus on the Italian matches.  Maybe I am naïve (or biased) to expect equal coverage, but I would certainly rank a Serie A match above a Carling Cup result in terms of importance.  I plan on a future column about the battle for the American soccer fans’ hearts but for now the “mainstream” media’s treatment of the league is disappointing (I recommend Rami’s post on a similar subject).