Maurizio Zamparini is a changed man. The Palermo owner once reveled in his own reputation as a “manager-eater” but has stuck with Beppe Iachini now for more than two years, and passed up the opportunity to fire him during this most recent international pause despite the fact his team has won only two of its seven Serie A games so far.
Zamparini will hope to see such faith rewarded against last-placed Bologna, who have scraped together just four goals in seven games. Palermo have had less trouble finding the opposition net, but with 12 goals conceded in their last five, are having a hard time defending their own.
Atalanta celebrated the 108th anniversary of their foundation this week with a natty video showing various members of their first-team squad wishing the club happy birthday. The best gift those players could give, of course, would be a win on Sunday, but Carpi arrive in Bergamo full of confidence after claiming their first-ever top-flight win.
It is a fixture that might well have implications for the relegation battle but I do not expect it to be cagy. Atalanta are missing starting centre-back Gabriel Palletta, and there have been a total of 17 goals scored in Carpi’s three away games to date.
Sampdoria have beaten Roma and drawn with Inter in the last month, but they have also lost away from home to Torino and Atalanta. Their midfield is significantly weakened by a suspension for the Brazilian Fernando – an ever-present thus far and hugely important in shielding the defence – and I can imagine them stumbling against opponents who ought to be fresher, given that they had fewer first-team players called up to represent their countries over the past fortnight.
The joint-lowest scorers in Serie A, Genoa’s four goals are spread between four different players and Gian Piero Gasperini is yet to settle on a preferred combination up front. Things may improve now that Diego Perotti, who missed the start of the season due to injury, is back and hitting his stride, but it is hard to feel confident about their prospects against the second-stingiest defence in the division.
Fiorentina may be top of the league but, since switching to a 4-3-3 formation last month, Napoli have won four out of five games across all competitions, drawing the remaining one, and scoring 18 times along the way. Lorenzo Insigne is in scintillating form and, perhaps best of all for the Partenopei, Gonzalo Higuaín was not included in Argentina’s squad for World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay – saving him a roughly 15,000 mile round-trip.
Playing before their biggest crowd of the season at the Stadio San Paolo, I expect Napoli to prevail. But it will not be a straightforward afternoon against opponents who are averaging two goals per game.
Sassuolo’s meetings with Lazio have rarely been dull. In four head-to-heads since the Neroverdi were promoted to the top-flight in 2013, a whopping 17 goals have been scored.
Lazio have never yet finished up on the losing side, but that run might be about to come to an end. The Biancocelesti have defended atrociously on their travels, conceding 10 times in three away fixtures, and will once again be without injured centre-back Stefan de Vrij and holding midfielder Lucas Biglia.
If games ended after 45 minutes, Verona and Udinese would have one goal apiece this season. Happily for both clubs (and paying supporters) they do not, but both teams could still be in for a very long campaign unless they learn how to start games quicker. I have no compelling reason to believe that they will do so this weekend.
The newspapers in Turin have taken to calling Mauro Icardi the ‘anti-Juve’. In five career matches against the Bianconeri, he has always found the net at least once. Indeed, his strike rate against them stands at a remarkable one goal for every 64 minutes he spends on the pitch.
With such a small sample size, there is clearly an element of chance but even looking at Icardi’s career in a broader context, we might conclude that he is a player who tends to show up in big games. This is a player who scored in his first-ever Genoa derby whilst at Samp and converted a penalty with a panenka when Inter was losing 2-1 late on away to Napoli last season. He seems to live for nights such as these.