Match Day 8: Spanish and Italian Delights

Match Day 8: Spanish and Italian Delights

By Papi Briano ‘Spanish Football Matador’

We have big ones in Italy this weekend, how about we start from Madrid then head to the Serie A this time…

Atletico versus Barcelona: The reviews that the Wanda stadium has received ever since opening its doors on game week four have been nothing short of exemplary.  Atleti’s main man, Griezmann, is on record having said that it was the best stadium that he had ever played in.  It says a lot for a man who has graced the Stade de France, San Siro, the Camp Nou and the Bernabéu.  This Saturday El Cholo’s charges confront an unbeaten Barcelona with a chance to really christen their new pad; after all Barca have a 100% record in the league so far.  Atletico are 6 points behind and make up one of the remaining three unbeaten sides in the La Liga.  Expect a cagey affair in this one as Simeone will want to keep things tight, playing narrow while trying to make the most of set pieces and the counter.  This is where Saul, Carrasco and Koke will have to dig deep while Griezmann feeds on crumbs up front since they will be starved of the ball for long periods.  Barca on the other hand I feel will come here with a certain sense of belief because they have seemingly learnt how to handle Atleti’s suffocating nature.

Atletico have only beat the Catalans once in their last 5 league meetings. Messi on the other side has scored the winner in the last two times Barcelona played at Atletico.  He is in incredible form right now, coming straight from firing a hat-trick for Argentina to seal qualification.  If the sun comes out on Saturday it may be so that he ends up on the scoresheet yet again.  El Cholo’s men go down fighting in this one I feel but there’s something about Atleti’s new wonder, the Wanda stadium.

Juventus versus Lazio: There is a spring in the step of Italian football this season.    I don’t remember once in the Serie A where this was this level of competition so early in the season.  Juve are unexpectedly second on the log and if you have watched them this season consistently you will know that something needs tweaking in the team if they will secure their seventh straight Scudetto.  Lazio lie fourth and are three points behind the Old Lady.  Just in case you need reminding of what happened in the Supercoppa when these two sides met in August. Allegris’s men were stunned in late dramatic fashion going down 3-2 in a match which swung wildly from one side to the other.  Lazio come into this one fresh from giving Sassuolo a savage 6-1 mauling and they exposed Milan in the past month hitting them for four.  Simone Inzaghi is onto something and it has been an open secret that his tactical nous is among the most daring in the Italian peninsula.

It will be the key men in this duel who will make this worth its money.  Juve’s scoring cheat code, Dybala is in terrifying form in front of goal.  Whereas Ciro Immobile will be tasked with the unenviable task of finding the net at the Juventus Stadium.  I don’t think that this will be a problem since Immobile has 9 in the league so far only one behind Dybala.  The form book makes for some disheartening read against Lazio.  Juve have won the last seven league meetings between these two without conceding; as if that’s not enough they’ve also not conceded in their last five at home.  My call, don’t entirely trust the form book in this one. Sometimes the size of the fight in the dog trumps the size of the dog.

Roma versus Napoli: This is another blaster in the Serie A this weekend, fifth going after the current table toppers.  Napoli have made a 100% start in Serie A, which has put them two points clear of Juventus.  There’s an argument amongst those who know better than us that Napoli are playing the most exhilarating football in Europe.  Their tactician, Maurizio Sarri, looks as if he may have finally got them straight instead of the pretenders to the throne they have been for a while.  Roma haven’t looked like they may stay in touch with the leaders for the long haul after losing their manager Spalleti to Inter in the off season.  Their performances have mostly pointed towards an incohesive side.  That said, Roma have scored in their last 27 home league games while Napoli have scored at least three goals in every Serie A game this season.  This is thanks to the ‘reincarnation of Maradona’ who revealed himself to the Napoli fans as Dries Mertens.  They love him so much that they call him Dries Armando! You should see his goal against Lazio in the last round of matches when they were tearing them into pieces. I had to see for myself on YouTube why people said Maradona scored one just like that back in 1985 for Napoli.  Dries ‘Armando’s was better!!!



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