Serie A, Week 4 preview: Roma and Napoli face tough challenges

Claudio Villa

Both teams at the top look to have the advantage in the week's toughest matches, but it's never wise to expect the expected from a Rome derby, while Milan are brilliant at pulling luck out of a hat. Will Napoli and Roma still stand at the top when the week runs out?

It's Round 4 in Serie A, and we're down to two at the top, both who face challenging opponents this weekend. On Sunday, Roma host Lazio in the season's first Derby della Capitale, and their rivals certainly won't be eager to play a hand in the giallorossi maintaining their perfect record. Later that evening, Napoli visit the San Siro to take on Milan, with both sides tired after a challenging first round in the Champions League.

Meanwhile, last week's stumblers have the benefit of weak opposition. Juventus, who drew 1-1 with Inter in last week's Derby d'Italia, welcome Hellas Verona, who've made a decent start to the season but still won't present much trouble to the Old Lady. The nerazzurri take on Sassuolo, who are dead last and searching for their first point. Finally, Fiorentina go to Bergamo, looking to avenge last week's late draw with Cagliari by taking all three points against Atalanta.

So might we have another five-way draw at the top of the table by the end of the week?

Saturday

Cagliari vs Sampdoria

The hosts will be hoping to build on last week's draw against the viola, and facing Sampdoria, they could certainly double their win tally. Samp put on a pathetic -- yes, there's no better word to describe it -- performance against Genoa last weekend, looking for all the world like they didn't care that they were involved in a derby. The loss caused 'Doria to slip down into the bottom three, although the tone of their performance is ultimately more concerning.

Chievo Verona vs Udinese

Well, this game should be a blast. Thanks for giving it special billing, FICG. Chievo are somehow just above the relegation zone, but since they're level on points with Parma and Samp, we'll go ahead and put them in the bottom three. Their only point comes from a goalless encounter with Parma. Meanwhile, Udinese continue their tradition of slow starts to the season, needing a late goal from Antonio Di Natale to give them a point against Bologna last weekend.

Genoa vs Livorno

Prior to the last round, this match would've likely held no interest to anyone other than supporters of the clubs involved. But then Fabio Liverani guided his team to a surprising 3-0 victory over their rivals, leaving no trace of the Genoa that lost 2-5 to Fiorentina. Livorno, who are, crazily enough, currently in sixth, come to town with back-to-back victories, although wins against Catania and Sassuolo aren't exactly boast-worthy.

Sunday

Sassuolo vs Inter Milan

Sassuolo: dead last, one goal, eight against. Already dubbed this season's Pescara. Should be no trouble whatsoever for Walter Mazzarri's revived Inter.

AS Roma vs Lazio

It's another derby week in Italy, and rarely do rivalries get more more exciting than games played out in the capital. Last year brought three editions of the Rome Derby, including the Coppa Italia final, with Lazio winning two and drawing the third. But it's the giallorossi that have the advantage this time around, have dropped no points yet this season, and conceding their first goal just last week, against Parma. Lazio put three past Chievo last week, and Vladmir Petovic rested many in the Europa League win over Legia Warsaw on Thursday, but it's difficult not to view them as underdogs this time around.

Atalanta vs Fiorentina

Andrea Consigli did well to keep Atalanta in the match last week, but after the introduction of José Callejón and Marek Hamšík, la dea fell 2-0 to Napoli. They've got a win against Torino to keep them warm at night, but Atalanta will likely still be tossing and turning, fearing what Fiorentina might do after last week's late draw and failed penalty call on Giuseppe Rossi.

Bologna vs Torino

Blah.

Catania vs Parma

Is it too early in the season to think about thrilling fights at the bottom of the table? Parma doubled their season's goal tally last weekend with the opening goal against Roma, but the visitors fought back to win 3-1. Catania are having an even worse go of it, having slipped from a fun attacking side to one that's scored just once in the opening three rounds. The elefanti are sitting in 19th and starting to look doomed to repeating Palermo's slide into Serie B.

Juventus vs Hellas Verona

A draw against Inter. A draw against Copenhagen. Are Juve set to wreak havoc on visiting Verona? Or will Hellas be buoyed by their 8th place standing and a win against fellow newbies Sassuolo? The visitors may have all the confidence in the world -- they certainly look like a side determined to remain in Serie A -- but it's unlikely they'll leave Turin with a result.

Napoli vs AC Milan

The week ends with Napoli determined to keep hold on first place, showing the world they deserve to be serious scudetto challengers. The win against Dortmund midweek certainly proved more than their perfect record against inferior opposition, but the partenopei looked tired by the final ten minutes. Rafa Benítez will have to choose whether to rest some of his best, but fortunately, the depth in this Napoli squad runs much deeper than it has over the past few seasons. Milan, meanwhile, are regretting not having the same sort of choices, with their injury list running as long as the road to Naples. Despite managing to beat Celtic, the rossoneri gave a poor Champions League showing, and the visitors will need an impressive match at the San Paolo to silence their critics.

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