Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
Serie A springs back in to action on Saturday following the international break, and we start with two huge games. Both Inter Milan and Napoli – the two sides who are set to challenge Juventus for the title – are in action in the opening matches of the fourth round of fixtures.
While we’re still in the early stages of the new campaign, this weekend brings key tests and questions to two of the league’s leading sides. Can Inter Milan gain some momentum? Just how good are Napoli following their exploits last season? Can Carlo Ancelotti juggle Serie commitments and a Champions League push? Ahead of Inter’s clash with Parma and Napoli’s meeting with Fiorentina, we’re looking at the biggest fixtures in Serie A on Saturday.
Can Inter’s Recovery Continue Against Parma?
Hammering Bologna was a huge step forward from Inter, which showed why many put them forward as title contenders. They had Radja Nainggolan back for this clash, and he played a noticeable role in their improved display. The Belgian came in as the number 10 in their 4-2-3-1 formation, and he was central to everything positive about their display.
Nainggolan’s continued international retirement is a boost to Inter, who have benefited from keeping him around for two weeks. Spalletti said after the Inter defeat that, “the reality is that the team is struggling with pressure.” That’s an issue which the attitude and experience of Nainggolan can help to fix. The manager got a lot out of the Belgian when they were together at Roma, and here the Ninja looks back to his best under his old boss.
Inter and Nainggolan will be hoping to continue their progress in this weekend’s meeting with Parma. The newly promoted side gave Juventus a scare last time out, so this will be a good marker for Inter as they look to climb the Serie A standings. They need to build on their victory, especially with a return to European football right around the corner.
Read More: Is Optimism Dwindling in Milan?
Ancelotti’s Napoli Out to Bounce Back
However, instead of looking at the success of those two wins, their defeat raises questions over the whole campaign. Their early performances against those two top sides were far from convincing. Having lost in such convincing circumstances, Carlo Ancelotti clearly has work to do.
The concern for Ancelotti is that he was in a similar position at Bayern as he is at Napoli. The Bavarians had a set style of play, and he struggled to keep that going, with training tailing off from the Pep Guardiola years. Like the Catalan, Maurizio Sarri demanded a lot from his side, something the new boss doesn’t do. Are we see seeing that lowered intensity leaving them short on the pitch?
This is a huge week for the Partenopei, and their commitment and intensity will be put to the test. Their Serie A clash on Saturday is followed by a return to the Champions League, and a meeting with Red Star. Last season Sarri sacrificed Europe to make a title push, but Ancelotti won’t get the same leeway. Napoli need to sort out their domestic form, and raise their game just as their schedule starts get demanding. It’s fair to say that the excitement which greeted his arrival has given way to concern, and things could be about to get worse.
Partenopei Face Perfect Viola
In a season where the top six already seems locked in – and potentially top seven including Atalanta – Fiorentina have a bit of a ceiling when it comes to a European push. However, they’re still going to be difficult opponents for the title challengers. Their first big clash comes in this meeting with the Partenopei, so will they try to prove a point here?
Napoli have been well tested by top sides this season, so they’ll expect to come out of this clash with the points. However, we’re now going to be far more interested in the manner of each performance, given how easily things well apart for them at Sampdoria. With Fiorentina starting well, this is also a test for their credentials as a potential Europa League challenger, and this will give us an idea of how far their rebuilding job has brought them.
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