Friday, 19 October 2007

Serie A Week 8: Weekend Preview

Genoa and Napoli both fall in the category of sleeping giants, but there have been signs of a long-overdue awakening for the clubs as they prepare for high-profile fixtures this weekend.

Genoa make the short trip to Turin to play Claudio Ranieri's Juventus on Sunday night while Napoli travel to the capital to meet Roma in the Derby del Sud for the first time in six years on Saturday afternoon.

Both clubs are re-acclimatising to life in the top flight after long spells in the footballing doldrums, even third-tier football at times.

Genoa's exile from the elite lasted 12 years but they are acquitting themselves very well and lie fifth ahead of their date with second-placed Juve, who also joined Napoli and Genoa in winning promotion last season - although their spell in Serie B lasted only a year.

Genoa were once the biggest club in Italian football but their last Scudetto came back in 1924.

Ranieri has delivered an excellent start for Juve, who are also buoyed by the news that the long-serving Alessandro Del Piero has extended his contract at the club until 2010.

Napoli, when the inspirational Diego Maradona was at the club, won two Scudetti - the only time a club south of Rome has ever lifted the title. Their exile has been less lengthy than Genoa's but they have also started well and lie ninth ahead of their trip to the Eternal City.

Despite the good starts of Genoa and Napoli, it is champions Inter that are setting the pace so far in Serie A.

Roberto Mancini's men face a trip south to play Reggina on Saturday night - historically a meaningful one for Inter who famously sacked Marcello Lippi on day one of the season in 2000 after his team lost in Reggio Calabria.

The Nerazzurri's form has been impressive and they received more good news with the return to training of Marco Materazzi.

Inter's city rivals AC Milan may be European champions but they will be eager to make up lost ground at home to Empoli after winning only two of seven Serie A games this season.

Getting a special cheer for Empoli, no doubt, will be youngster Levan Mchelidze whose goal for Georgia against Scotland in midweek boosted the hopes of the Azzurri in qualifying for Euro 2008.

One of several Tuscany derbies will take place in Florence where hosts Fiorentina entertain Siena, boosted by the fact that newly-capped Italian international midfielder Riccardo Montolivo has signed a new deal.

Udinese and Palermo are both in touch with the leading pack and they will do battle in Udine while Bergamo is the destination for Torino who visit Atalanta.

Catania make the trip to Sardinia to face Cagliari while Parma visit Genoa to play Sampdoria.

Livorno are sitting bottom of Serie A and new coach Giancarlo Camolese will try and stop the rot when the Tuscany-based club tackles Lazio in Leghorn.

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