Where has this Inter Milan gone? (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
The football just keeps coming this week! It seems as though it was just hours ago that we closed the books on Week 10 in Serie A, and now here we are, back again with Week 11. The midweek matches don't feature any derbies or pit any teams racing for the top of the table against one another, but hey, it's midweek football-if anything, it holds us over until the weekend, when the first Milan derby of the season occurs.
But these matches are actually a bit more than just a tasty snack to satisfy us until the weekend. Week 10 brought a few interesting results, including Lazio's loss to AS Roma, and Inter's draw with Brescia at the San Siro. Were those matches aberrations, or do they signify a shift in Serie A?
Is Lazio About To Start The Slide?
Lazio failed to beat Roma on Sunday, allowing penalties to decide the Derby Della Capitale, with Roma converting two for a 2-0 win. While goalkeeper Fernando Muslera should have saved the first kick, and Lazio should have had their own penalty given in the second half, the league leaders shouldn't need to make such excuses. The Biancoceleste allowed Roma to dominate possession in the first half of the game, barely testing Roma keeper Julio Sergio. Although they came to life in the second, Lazio couldn't get their shots on target. Now, they're facing a Cesena side that has found just one point in their last seven games. Three successive defeats has the club in the relegation zone, and a thin squad certainly isn't helping matters. Lazio, meanwhile, have fresh legs available, likely resting midfielder Hernanes and giving players such as Mark Bresciano and Matuzalem starts. The advantage clearly rests with Lazio, and if the Roman side comes away with anything less than a win, a slide will be nearly inevitable.
Was Inter's Greatness Due Entirely To José Mourinho?
Rafael Benitez made the mistake of mentioning this week that he thought coaching Inter Milan would be as easy as taking candy from a baby. Ok, not really-Rafa is rarely that clear when using clichés. What he did say was that he did not expect many difficulties from a team that had just won the treble. While Benitez clearly thought he was deserting the sinking ship of Liverpool for the ease and comfort of the San Siro, instead he found himself a team wracked with injuries. A team that couldn't beat Tottenham Hotspur to retain the top of the Champions League group. A team that couldn't beat Brescia at home, for goodness sake. With Inter now in third, just behind rivals AC Milan, Benitez must find a way to get the win in their away match against Lecce. The Salentini are in fine form at home, unbeaten in four matches. To keep from settling in the relegation zone, Lecce need to keep finding results at the Del Mare, and will look to be closing down Samuel Eto'o, the only nerazzurri who's managed to produce under Benitez.
If Lazio Slips and Inter Collapses, Who Will Take Their Place?
AC Milan, of course, sits right between Lazio and Inter in the table, and face Palmero at the San Siro on Wednesday. Palmero finally won against Genoa at the weekend, but Milan are still the likely victors in this match, knowing that a win could both bring them to the top of the table and give them momentum going into the Milan derby on Sunday.
Juventus lingers just behind the top three, four points out of first and looking to find their third consecutive win away against Brescia. Brescia, of course, will be riding high off their draw with Inter, but will a high be enough to save the team with one of the worst home records in Serie A? Juve, meanwhile, have only conceded two goals away from home, so the expected result will be a victory for The Old Lady.
And so if Milan and Juventus get their expected wins, Napoli-sitting behind Juventus on goal difference-will have to find a victory against Cagliari or risk finding themselves out in the cold. The partenopei bring with them one of the most potent weapons in Italian football: Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, who has scored eight goals so far this season, including a brace against Parma at the weekend.
Finally there's Roma, down in seventh due to a slow start, but desperate to claw their way back to the top. The giallorossi will be seeking their third consecutive win against Fiorentina, who haven't won away from home since last March. Still, the viola bring their most powerful weapon in Adrian Mutu, and if the striker's form against Chievo at the weekend is any indication, he's likely to be the reason Fiorentina finally find an away win.
Chievo Verona meet Bari, who have now lost five consecutive matches and conceded 18 goals. Catania face Udinese, trying to extend their unbeaten run at home. Genoa, who sacked coach Gian Piero Gasperini after the team's loss to Palermo this weekend, travel to Bologna under the care of new manager Davide Ballardini. Finally, Parma take on Sampdoria on Thursday. The Gialloblu are still trying to pull themselves out of the relegation zone, but host a tough blucerchiati side who haven't lost since September 19.