Serie A: Juventus already giving chase to early pacesetters Inter Milan and Lazio
It’s hard to make any concrete conclusions after the opening round of Serie A fixtures. However, Jose Mourinho started off life in charge of Roma with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Fiorentina. Meanwhile, reigning champions Inter Milan cruised to a 4-0 win over Genoa. In this preview, we will look ahead to two clashes on Saturday — Juventus v Empoli and Lazio v Spezia.
Juventus blow three points as speculation over Cristiano Ronaldo’s future intensifies
Juventus will be fuming over their opening-day performance against Udinese. After storming into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado, they let things slip. Udinese hauled themselves back into the game and Gerard Deulofeu netted an equalizer seven minutes from time. However, it was a nervous wait for Udinese before VAR overturned the on-field decision.
More surprisingly, Massimiliano Allegri dropped Cristiano Ronaldo from his starting XI. Ronaldo’s future has been the subject of intense speculation, although he made a 30-minute appearance against Udinese, and he had a goal disallowed. It will be fascinating to see if Juve can retain the services of the Portuguese superstar come the end of the summer transfer window.
Massimiliano Allegri gives update on Juventus star Manuel Locatelli
Although Allegri had to field searching questions about Ronaldo’s future, he was also asked about Manuel Locatelli. Over the summer, Locatelli was instrumental in Italy’s triumphant Euro 2020 campaign, but he is still trying to work his way back to full fitness. When asked about Locatelli after the game, Allegri said: “He is just a little bit behind in his form.”
Empoli put to the sword by Lazio
Empoli have been handed a tough start, fixture wise. Although they took the lead in the fourth minute against Lazio last weekend, Empoli folded. Lazio proved to be too ruthless, as they hit back through Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, before Manuel Lazzari and Ciro Immobile wrapped up the points for the visitors.
Juventus v Empoli: how past encounters have unfolded
Head-to-head records are usually a good gauge of how things might unfold. As far as Juventus are concerned, they have only lost once in their previous 20 Serie A clashes with Empoli. The last time the two sides met at the Allianz Stadium was back in March 2019, when Juve clinched a 1-0 victory thanks to a Moise Kean strike.
Lazio enjoy electric start to the campaign
Lazio — who finished sixth last season — won’t settle for anything less than a top-four finish. They got off to the perfect start last weekend as they romped to a 3-1 victory over Empoli. Pedro — who recently joined from arch-rivals Roma — was given a 30-minute run-out, and he will be delighted to have made his debut for Lazio.
While the attempts count may be an area they will need to improve in, Lazio enjoyed more possession (56%) against Empoli, and completed over 100 more passes than their opponents. And when the chances came their way, Lazio were clinical.
Meanwhile, before Spezia take on Lazio, they face Cagliari to kick off their Serie A campaign. Last season, Spezia finished 15th, six points above the relegation zone. However, their defence was rather leaky, as they shipped 72 goals, and the fear is they could get ripped apart by Lazio if they aren’t careful.
Lazio looking to maintain perfect record against Spezia
On Saturday afternoon, Lazio will be facing Spezia for only the third time in Italy’s top-flight tournament. However, in their two previous encounters, Lazio have come out on top on both occasions. Lazio registered a 2-1 victory last season at home, with Felipe Caicedo grabbing the winner from the penalty spot.
However, it was a rather fiery game, as Lazio had two players sent off in injury time — Joaquin Correa and Manuel Lazzari. The encounter before that saw Lazio win by the same scoreline (2-1). On that day, Immobile and Milinkovic-Savic were both on target for Lazio.
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