Serie A, Round 8 preview and fixtures: Top two do battle on Friday evening

Paolo Bruno

Napoli visit the Stadio Olimpico on Friday night in hopes of putting an end to Roma's perfect start to the season. On Saturday, Milan try to prove that they're still in this, while on Sunday, Fiorentina host Juve before Inter try to regroup against Torino.

It's set to be a fun weekend in Italy, with the excitement starting Friday evening in the capital as perfect Roma host almost-perfect Napoli. After the way the giallorossi dismantled a quality Inter side in the last round, it seems unlikely the visitors will manage to take even a point from the hosts, but it should be an exciting display nonetheless.

If you'd already made thrilling Friday night plans before Roma-Napoli got rescheduled, well, you can console yourself with Milan-Udinese on Saturday night. No good? And Torino-Inter on Sunday evening doesn't sound that thrilling either? Try Fiorentina-Juventus on Sunday evening or, if you want to go against the flow, tune in to see whether it's Verona or Parma that manage to keep their hot streak going.

Friday

AS Roma vs. Napoli (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Thanks to planned protests in Rome, the week kicks off with the biggest match. The scheduling maneuver leaves second-place Napoli at a slightly greater disadvantage, with Lorenzo Insigne having played the full match against Armenia, Gökhan İnler putting in two starts with Switzerland, and Pablo Armero racing back from Colombia to take the place of Camilo Zúñiga. For Roma, Miralem Pjanic is likely a bit worn down with celebrating Bosnia's first trip to a World Cup, but Alessandro Florenzi played just an hour for Italy on Tuesday, while Kevin Strootman spent the match against Turkey on the bench, and Gervinho's Ivory Coast hasn't played since Saturday.

Saturday

Cagliari vs. Catania (6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET)

Cagliari will play hosts for the first time this season, finally getting to use the Stadio Sant'Ella in Sardinia. Will it give the isolani a boost, or will they pick up their fifth draw of the season? The visitors, too, have just one win thus far, but with only two points are hovering close to the relegation zone. Maybe it's time to convince Alejandro Gomez to return from Ukraine, where apparently it's cold and the language is difficult.

AC Milan vs. Udinese (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

It's tough being Milan right now, with eight points from seven games and just two victories thus far. Oh, and did we mention they just lost to their Primavera side? At least Mario Balotelli is back from suspension. That should make Udinese very, very nervous. Francesco Guidolin would do well to warn his side not to make any sudden movements inside the penalty box.

Sunday

all matches at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET unless otherwise noted

Atalanta vs. Lazio (12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET)

Lazio may not have had the best start to the season, collecting just three wins, but three points in Bergamo could put them right back in the European places -- provided Fiorentina and Verona both lose, of course. Should the biancocelesti want to preserve any hope of hanging on to Hernanes, they're going to need to defeat a do-or-die Atalanta side that's won their last two.

Fiorentina vs. Juventus

The other big match of the week is stuffed into the Sunday afternoon slot, like somehow we'll overlook it and opt for Genoa-Chievo. The viola aren't living up to their preseason hype, drawing against Parma and Lazio since losing at Inter. The hosts are still without  Mario Gómez but are hoping Giuseppe Rossi can return to goalscoring form. Juventus will miss Fabio Quagliarella and, with Mirko Vučinić still injured, it may mean Sebastian Giovinco will partner Carlos Tévez up front. If Antonio Conte's strange obsession with Seba continues, this match just might swing Fiorentina's way.

Genoa vs. Chievo Verona

Good job Genoa on getting a draw last time out and everything but still...no thanks.

Hellas Verona vs. Parma

Verona sit in fifth place. Fifth! That's a Europa League place. Sure, they're unlikely to be there at the end of the season, but that's still impressive for a Serie A newcomer. This one has potential to be an exciting match. Verona having yet to drop points at home, while Parma, after a positively dreadful start to the season, are undefeated in their last four and have scored nine goals in their last three matches. (And now that I've mentioned it could be a thriller, be sure to go place your bets on a goalless draw.)

Livorno vs. Sampdoria

Serbian news sources are busy tipping Siniša Mihajlović to take over from Delio Rossi in an ironic twist of events that should give Samp the kick in the pants they need to actually win a match. Livorno, after a great start, are winless in their last four, so if 'Doria know what's good for them...

Sassuolo vs. Bologna

Bologna have conceded 20 goals this season, Sassuolo 21. But the visitors have given up 12 in their last three matches, while the neroverdi actually managed a couple of impressive draws before losing to Parma last time out. Maybe Sunday will mark the day Sassuolo finally get their first win of the season?

Torino vs. Inter Milan (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Inter may be "revitalized" under Walter Mazzarri, but they've certainly proved they're not indestructible, first being held to a draw by Cagliari before losing to a nearly-perfect Roma side. But despite the 3-0 loss, the nerazzurri still looked solid on the pitch, and they come to Turin knowing three points are necessary, even at this early stage, to keep themselves in the scudetto running. But Toro have yet to lose at the Stadio Olimpico. Will they manage to get their standard two goals past Inter's still impressive defense?

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