Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Serie A: August- 2nd September (First 3 league games)

Serie A is back and with-it quality football, good goals, new managers, huge new players and its usual moments of controversy have followed. Juventus as expected lead the way and are followed by Sassuolo while the bottom 3 is made up of Chievo, Frosinone and Bologna. Defending champions Juventus are the only side with 3 wins from their opening 3 games. However, they are not the only side with a 100% record as Fiorentina have won their opening 2 games after their match with Sampdoria was postponed due to the bridge collapse in Genoa which horrifically killed 42 people. Both Genoa and Sampdoria postponed their opening games as a mark of respect and travel issues. Both clubs have played a home game since the postponements with both clubs marking their respects with Genoa’s fans remaining completely silent for 42 minutes against Empoli. The tragedy has brought the two clubs together and both sides have 3 points from their opening 2 games.

Defending champions Juventus have started as many expected winning their opening 3 games scoring at least 2 in each game. Victories over Chievo, Lazio and Parma have got the champions up and running. However, Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to score for the Old Lady after his move from Real Madrid and he will desperately want to get his season up and running. He will see September as a perfect opportunity to get up and running with games coming thick and fast. Another side starting well is Sassuolo who sit in 2nd place behind Juventus after collecting 7 points from their opening 3 games with victories over Inter and Genoa and a draw with Cagliari. Roberto De Zerbi will be delighted with his start as Sassuolo boss and he will want to continue that momentum into September against Juventus.  It has been an excellent start for Fiorentina with consecutive home wins against Chievo and Udinese to kick off their season. The Viola bashed 6 past Chievo and at times looked relentless going forward. Marco Benassi in midfield has caught the eye so far notching 3 goals in 2 games including the winner against Udinese. It has also been an excellent start for SPAL in their second consecutive season back in Serie A. Leonardo Semplici’s men are efficient and are very happy to defend a 1-0 lead as highlighted in their wins over Bologna and Parma. However, they ended the month with a 1-0 defeat to Torino. Goals are not full flowing in SPAL matches and their outcomes are usually decided by a narrow margin. But those narrow margins have gone their way so far and Semplici will be delighted with their start. Similarly, Carlo Ancelotti will be relatively satisfied with their opening month having won their opening 2 games over potential title rivals Lazio and AC Milan however, the opening month ended miserably as they were thrashed by Sampdoria and Ancelotti will want an immediate response against Fiorentina. A clean sheet alludes Ancelotti so far with Napoli conceding 6 goals in their opening 3 games and a side cannot with title ambitions cannot be conceding an average of 2 goals a game and Ancelotti must address this issue going forward.

There is a cluster of sides on 4 points from their opening 3 games and these are Atalanta, Inter, Empoli, Roma, Torino, Udinese and Cagliari. Its been a slow start for Inter. Luciano Spalletti’s men started with a defeat at Sassoulo and followed that up by surrendering a 2-0 lead against Torino at the San Siro. However, they finished the opening month with a comprehensive victory against Bologna. Although their start is weaker than last season having won their opening 3 games, Inter are gelling after Spalletti made a few new signings including Radja Nainggolan and Stefan De Vrij. Roma are also gelling as a team after a whole host of new signings including Javier Pastore and Steven N’Zonzi and exits from the Stadio Olimpico this summer. Eusebio Di Francesco’s side are winless in their last 2 games since beating Torino on the opening weekend. However, they have showed signs they are coming together as a team including fighting back from 3-1 down against Atalanta to snatch a point but followed that with defeat against AC Milan. It has been a disappointing opening month for Gianpiero Gasperini and Atalanta. They like Roma, are winless in their last 2 matches since thrashing Frosinone on the opening weekend. That win has been followed by a draw with Roma and a defeat against Cagliari as well as a Europa League exit in the qualifiers to FC Copenhagen. Gasperini will hope for an improved September starting against SPAL. Both Julio Velazquez and Rolando Maran both started new jobs for this season at Udinese and Cagliari and both managers will be pleased with their starts having both notched 4 points. Velazquez and Udinese picked up a home win against Sampdoria while Maran and Cagliari picked up an excellent away win at Atalanta and both sides will want to carry their positive momentum into September.

It has been a difficult start to the season for Chievo, Bologna and newly promoted sides Parma and Frosinone. Chievo are rock bottom on goal difference after a month where they have conceded 9 goals after defeats to Juventus and Fiorentina while they ended with month with a good clean sheet in a goalless draw against Empoli. While Filippo Inzaghi has had a tough start in charge of Bologna with the club not only yet to win but they are goalless too. Bologna have lost both home games against Inter and SPAL without scoring the pressure will be on Filippo Inzaghi if things don’t improve in September. They have been extremely disappointing so far and Inzaghi will know a turnaround has to begin against Genoa. It has also been a difficult side for newly promoted Parma and Frosinone. Both sides have just 1 point from their opening 3 games and like Bologna, Frosinone are also yet to score this season and they must quickly find a solution if they are going to have any chance at staying up this season. Goals are vital in any team and they must sort that out against Sampdoria as well as find a winning formula. Parma are also struggling but at least they’ve proved they can score goals notched 3 goals in the opening month, but a win has alluded them having thrown away a 2-0 lead on the opening day against Udinese and that has been followed by defeats to SPAL and Juventus. Like many Serie A sides, Parma have made a whole host of new signings and it will take time for them to gel and they must find a win soon and they will hope September brings that win but their search will begin with a trip to Inter.

Two sides we are yet to discuss are Lazio and AC Milan. Both Simone Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso’s sides have collected 3 points from their opening month of the campaign. A tough start for Lazio having faced last seasons top 2 in Napoli and Juventus but they at least ended the opening month with a win against Frosinone. Inzaghi will hope that momentum carries into September. Gattuso will also hope momentum carries into September after ending the opening month with a win over Roma after losing their opening game at Napoli having been 2-0 up. Gattuso will be confident he is the man to lead AC Milan but needs a good September to install that belief into AC Milan’s new owner.

September will no doubt bring some excellent football and great goals, but will it bring Cristiano Ronaldo’s first goal for Juventus only time will tell. September does bring exciting matches including Napoli vs Fiorentina, Sampdoria vs Inter, AC Milan vs Atalanta, Inter vs Fiorentina, Roma vs Lazio and Juventus vs Napoli. So, expect some mouth-watering clashes and exciting football in September in Italy’s top flight.

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