The international break has come and gone -- although it sure did seem interminable while we were in it -- and now it's time to get down to the real business of Serie A. It never seems as though the season has actually started until the first break is over, although the five undefeated teams might be quick to argue that point. On the other hand, Catania, Genoa, and Sassuolo, all with big fat zeros, might get behind the idea that the first two rounds were simply for practice, and the season actually starts this weekend.
Saturday, September 14
Inter Milan vs. Juventus (6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET)
The weekend kicks off with the biggest match of Round 3, the Derby d'Italia. This fake derby pits two of the teams at the top and might actually give us some insight into just how much Inter are improving under Walter Mazzarri. The nerazzurri put three past Catania last week and two past Genoa the week before, all without conceding, but with both those sides in the bottom three it's tough to actually judge Inter's quality.
With the Champions League group stages kicking off next week, each of Italy's three participants will take the Saturday shift. Napoli had the majority of their starters away on international duty and are set to take on Dortmund midweek, so this would be a good time for Rafa Benítez to demonstrate that he's less adverse to change than his predecessor. Unfortunately for the hosts, Atalanta had a solid win over Torino last week and can't be taken lightly. Plus it was Germán Denis's birthday this week so they're likely all still riding that high.
Toro fell 2-0 to Atalanta two weeks ago, and with their three points coming against Sassuolo, who should probably just forfeit already, it's hard to assess whether Torino have improved since last season. With their aim still just to stay up, they'll likely sit back and try to play for a point against Milan. Yay!
Sunday, September 15
all matches at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET unless otherwise noted
Fiorentina vs. Cagliari (12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET)
Fiorentina once again requested a change in scheduling, but since they seem to be whining to the FIGC pretty much every week, the details on why are hazy. Perhaps the extra 2.5 hours will give them more rest before their Europa League match? But after putting 5 past Genoa last time the viola will be flying high, and there's likely little Cagliari, who fell 3-1 to Milan last time around, can do to stop the home side from winning.
Sassuolo probably thought they'd have an easy time of it in the last round, facing a fellow newly promoted side in Livorno. Instead Livorno won 4-1. Considering Verona beat Milan in the first round, Sassuolo have probably spent the entire week staring into the darkness, clutching their pillows and whimpering about wanting to return to Serie B.
Lazio vs. Chievo Verona
The Flying Donkeys did their best against Napoli but still fell 4-2, while Lazio could only manage a goal in another big loss to Juventus. Both sides will be smarting, yet somehow this match will likely still manage to be boring.
Perhaps surprisingly, Catania are one of the bottom three sides. Of course, we're only through two rounds and the Sicilians have had to face both Inter and Fiorentina. It's unlikely the elefanti have slipped quite that much over the summer, but they'll have to prove themselves against newcomers Livorno. If they can't manage at least a point, Catania could be facing a relegation battle this season.
Surprisingly enough, Udinese are not in the bottom three, having actually won their match against Parma. But the usual slow start for the zebrette means that Bologna, who drew 2-2 with Sampdoria last round, may have a chance to collect a few more points. Ok, one point. They're probably not going to get more than one point.
Hey, it's this week's real derby, a clash taking place between two sides who are actually from the same town. But with Genoa looking like a side destined for Serie B and Samp having claimed just a point thus far, it's easy to see why this match isn't attracting a lot of attention. But maybe there will be a couple red cards or something to make it a bit more interesting.
Monday, September 16
The week finishes off with Parma trying to remind everyone why they were mentioned as a side to watch this season. The hosts started the season with a hard-fought goalless draw against Chievo before falling 3-1 to Udinese -- but hey, at least they scored their first goal of the year. Trying to start a turn around against a Roma side hell bent on revolution won't be easy, however, particularly since the giallorossi have yet to concede a goal.