In recent years Serie A has shed its reputation as a league of defensively-minded and one-paced soccer. Now the Italian top flight is packed with enterprising and aesthetic outfits, and with so many illustrious names in the division, regular big-name clashes.
This weekend there are three of those. One sees the Italian champions against one of the league’s rising forces, another sees the two most likely challengers to the division’s dominant force go head-to-head, while on Sunday it’s a city derby like no other.
While the spotlight will be on the Scudetto over the coming days, there are also huge matches to savour from the Premier League and La Liga too; meetings between two teams from different cities with very different opinions on football.
All kick-off times are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
Those who doubt the credentials of this version of Manchester United will tell you they’ve yet to be adequately tested in the Premier League so far this season. After Saturday, when they visit Anfield to face Liverpool, that’ll no longer be the case.
Spurred on by the passion and determination from their supporters, it’s easy to see Liverpool clattering out of the traps in this encounter and giving United’s defence plenty to ponder. Even though Sadio Mane is sidelined, the pace of Mohamed Salah, guile of Philippe Coutinho and intelligence of Roberto Firmino makes the Reds so tough to tame.
United have the tools to contain Liverpool better than most. Even without Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic can lock a game down in midfield, whereas the centre-back partnership of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly is blossoming. Plus, they have arguably the world’s best goalkeeper between the sticks in David De Gea.
Additionally, United have the firepower to expose Liverpool’s defensive hesitancies, with Romelu Lukaku in red-hot form and brilliantly supported by the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. If the Red Devils don’t get gifted chances by their hosts, the quality is there to prise Liverpool apart.
JUVENTUS VS. LAZIO
Saturday, October 14, 12 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect (live), beIN SPORTS (joined in progress at 12:15pm), fubo Premier (free 7-day trial)
For the first time in a long time it feels as though Juventus have a serious challenge for their title in Serie A. That extra competitiveness in the division makes games like this against Lazio so important.
Prior to the international break the Bianconeri turned in an uncharacteristically poor display against Atalanta, surrendering a two-goal lead. It allowed a resurgent Napoli to become outright leaders of the division, thus laying the gauntlet down to Juventus. There’ll be a huge onus on them to respond.
But Lazio are dangerous opponents, as Juve discovered in the Italian Super Cup earlier in the season, when the capital club got the better of champions in a 3-2 win. So far this season they’ve been exceptional and with the in-form Ciro Immobile leading the line, you’d back them to find a way past Gianluigi Buffon.
Still, Juventus’ home record is imperious and in Paulo Dybala, they arguably boast Serie A’s best footballer at the moment. Three points in this one for the champions, and we’ll get an indication as to how serious Napoli are in their title pursuit later in the day.
ROMA VS. NAPOLI
Saturday, October 14, 2:45 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fubo Premier (free 7-day trial)
Talk about Napoli to someone who has watched a lot of Italian football this season and they’ll immediately perk up.
Maurizio Sarri’s team have been sensational at the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign. The Partenopei have not only won all of their games, they’ve done so with an irrepressible swagger. The football they’ve played has been joyous, with the front three of Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens showing an incredible attacking affinity.
Tasked with trying to halt the league leaders will be a Roma team that have gone a little under the radar in the early weeks of the season. Eusebio Di Francesco’s team haven’t been as spectacular as Napoli, but a win at the Stadio Olimpico puts them three points behind the pace-setters with a game in hand.
It’s a chance for the Giallorossi to make their case for being considered in the title shakeup. And with Eden Dzeko coming back into form again, there’s a major goal threat in this Roma side; Napoli will be tested as a result. In a weekend of wonderful matches, this one has the potential to be the best of the lot.
Having played in front of an empty Camp Nou in their previous game before the international break, Barcelona head the capital to go up against Atletico Madrid at their vibrant new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
The previous game against Las Palmas was a tough one for all concerned with the Blaugrana, as unsavoury scenes in the Catalan capital over the legality of an independence referendum meant the game was played behind closed doors. Still, on the field Ernesto Valverde’s team got the job done, shining in a 3-0 win.
Encouragingly for Barcelona, they’ll welcome an ultra-confident Lionel Messi back from international duty. With Argentina’s World Cup hopes hanging by a thread, the forward took hold of the game against Ecuador, netting a brilliant hat-trick and ensuring his side qualified. With 11 goals scored already in seven La Liga games, he’s playing some of the best football of his career.
Stopping him will be a challenge for Atletico, though they have the discipline and concentration to do so. Victory here in front of their own fans would give their campaign a huge boost and crack the title race wide open once again.
Based on the respective focus each of these two teams had on them during the summer transfer window, it’s a surprise to many that on the brink of this Derby della Madonnina Inter Milan are looking in better shape than AC Milan.
Inter’s summer business was understated, with manager Luciano Spalletti seemingly keen to make the team more robust and introduce an ability to control matches in midfield. It’s worked superbly, with Milan Skriniar, Borja Valero and Matías Vecino all settling into life at the San Siro quickly.
Up top, the likes of Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic have given the team vital continuity in a goalscoring sense. It’s something AC Milan are longing for at this point, with a clutch of new signings made in the summer unsurprisingly taking a long time to gel.
But unsurprisingly the pressure is already on manager Vincenzo Montella, as his side have suffered back-to-back losses against Sampdoria and Roma coming into this one. Another toothless display and a derby defeat would create a scenario of discontent that the current AC Milan boss would struggle to rectify.
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