While the big game between Roma and Milan will take place on Monday, there are plenty of interesting story lines in the Serie A matches this weekend. Let's take a look at five of the most intriguing subplots
De Vrij returns to face Muriel- Lazio is looking to get back on track after losing the derby, while Sampdoria is coming off a great win against their former coach Mihajlovic. Simone Inzaghiwill finally get De Vrij back after the Dutch defender recovered from a foot injury, he will be tested by Sampdoria‚Äôs underrated attacking duo of Quagliarella (set to receive a well deservedextension) and Luis Muriel.
The Colombian striker recently stated that he plans on staying at Sampdoria during the January transfer window (he has been linked to Chelsea and Napoli) and that he likes his team‚Äôs chances against anyone at the Marassi stadium. Sampdoria will likely face Lazio‚Äôs attacking trio of Felipe Anderson/Immobile/Keita without starting keeper Viviano.
Can Mihajlovic stop Mandzukic?- I‚Äôm convinced that if I accidentally entered the word ‚ÄúMandzukic‚ÄĚ into Google Translate it would spit out ‚ÄúGrinta‚ÄĚ. The Croatian striker‚Äôs worth simply cannot be measured in goals alone, he helps his team by opening spaces for the other strikers, presses opponents and often comes up with huge defensive plays. His recent performances have been so good that Allegri is considering using him in an offensive trident also featuring Higuain and Dybala who is finally back from an injury, Mandzukic work rate makes this a realistic option against certain opponents.
Mandzukic will face Torino on Sunday, and while the Granatahave an explosive offense thanks to Belotti and the red hot (and underrated) Iago Falque, their defense has been just average- which is not surprising when you consider they lost Glik and Maksimovic last summer. Mihajlovic will have to not only contain Mandzukic, but also Pjanic who is striving playing in trequartista role as well as Daniele Rugani who has scored in back to back matches.
Will the wins against Benfica and Inter turn Napoli‚Äôs season around? Anyone who has followed me for awhile knows how much I respect Maurizio Sarri as a manager, but he has really struggled to make adjustments since Milik tore his ACL- the biggest telltale sign is how much Napoli has struggled at the San Paolo, when previously games at home were almost automatic wins for the partenopei.
But after a very disappointing home draw against Sassuolo, Napoli seems to be finally getting on a roll. They crushed Inter last Friday before travelling to Lisbon where they defeated Benfica, the result ensured that Napoli won their ChampionsLeague group for the first time in their history. Napoli will travel to Sardegna to face Cagliari, who currently have the worst defense in Serie A- Gabbiadini may finally get on the score sheet, which would help increase value of his stock in January window- Napoli will likely replace him with Pavoletti should he fully heal from a recent injury.
Inter faces Simeone‚Äôs son with an eye towards a rosier future- there seems to be a lot of momentum for Diego Simeone to return to Inter in the next few years. The Cholo has stated he plans on managing them someday ( a club he previously played for and who has a great tradition with Argentines), something that his son Giovanni recently confirmed in an interview in Spain. Of course the nerazzurri‚Äôs new manager Stefano Pioli wants to show he‚Äôs good enough to at least delay Simeone‚Äôs return to la Pinetina.
After the entertaining win against Fiorentina, Inter came crashing down to earth against Napoli and now find themselves 15 points behind Juventus and 11 behind Milan (and the last Champions League spot). There is no way around it, Inter must win against Genoa at San Siro- against Simeone‚Äôs son who has been a very good replacement for Pavoletti- to have any chance at salvaging the season. Another disappointing result would only ensure that Inter fans completely look past Pioli while waiting for Simeone to return.
Can Corini salvage Palermo‚Äôs season? After a very long stretch with Iachini, Zamparini has gone back to his firing ways and now Palermo finds themselves with their third manager of the season. Zamparini went with a familiar name in Eugenio Corini who played over 100 matches for the Sicilian club;Corini was also able to avoid relegation with Chievo after replacing Di Carlo in the middle of the 2012-13 season.
Palermo played well against Fiorentina at the Franchi stadium in Corini‚Äôs first match on the bench, but lost because of a last minute goal by Babacar- now Corini will make his home debut ironically against Chievo. The Flying Donkeys had gotten off to a flying start to the season, but recently came back down to earth mainly because of their anemic offense- they are now considering bringing back Paloschi who is struggling to find playing time at Atalanta.