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Serie A Weekend Preview: All the key talking points ahead of Matchday 8 as Jose Mourinho takes Roma to San Siro to face old side Inter
Jose Mourinho takes Roma to San Siro to face his old side Inter - although the Portuguese won't be on the touchline.
The international break is done and dusted and Serie A resumes in earnest this weekend, with nine games in Matchday 8 to be aired exclusively live on BT Sport.
In what is potentially shaping up to be the most intriguing contest in years, five points separate the top seven teams, with Inter and Roma occupying the lowest of those positions and preparing to lock horns on Saturday evening.
The meeting of these two Italian giants also sees Jose Mourinho take his current side to San Siro for the third time, having guided the Nerazzurri to a memorable treble during a glorious two-year spell at the club.
For Mourinho, the last two visits to this cathedral of football with Roma have ended in defeat - can the Portuguese make it third time lucky (albeit from the touchline after being sent off in the previous match against Atalanta)?
Let's get into the key issues for all 10 games on Matchday 8.
Matchday 8 fixtures live on BT Sport
Saturday 1 October
Sunday 2 October
Lecce vs Cremonese, 2pm on BT Sport 5
Monday 3 October
Napoli's hopes of a first Serie A title since 1990 fell away last April after a disastrous spell of one point from nine, but Luciano Spalletti's men have recovered from their hammer blow to begin 2022/23 strongly.
The Partenopei sit top of Serie A with 17 points after seven games - ahead of Atalanta on goal difference - and despite fears of decline this term after losing a host of big names, including Kalidou Koulibaly, Fabian Ruiz, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, Spalletti has refreshed the squad impressively.
Left-back Mathias Olivera, midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and tricky winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have all slotted in seamlessly, while centre-back addition Kim Min-jae has stepped into Koulibaly's shoes and formed an impressive partnership with Amir Rrahmani.
At the other end of the pitch, Giovanni Simeone, son of Atletico Madrid boss Diego, bagged the winner in a thrilling contest at reigning champions AC Milan last time out, ending the Rossoneri's 22-game run and strengthening Napoli's title credentials.
Torino meanwhile are positioned snugly in mid-table despite losing striker Andrea Belotti and 2022/23 Serie A Defender of the Year Bremer, with Ivan Juric making smart use of the loan market, bringing in Aleksey Miranchuk and Nikola Vlasic from Atalanta and West Ham respectively.
Vlasic is the visitors' top scorer so far this campaign and they will need him in top form on Saturday as the Maroons look to end a 14-game winless run against their upcoming opponents.
Jose Mourinho returns to his old stomping ground and the club where he won back-to-back Serie A titles and an unprecedented treble.
However, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss won't be prowling the touchline after being dismissed in the 1-0 defeat to Atalanta for furiously protesting the decision not to give a penalty for a foul on Nicolo Zaniolo.
This means the 59-year-old's presence will be confined to the stands and the dressing room on the day of the game as he looks to exploit an Inter side beset by inconsistency and missing Marcelo Brozovic after the Croatian became the first player in the league to pick up five yellows this season.
Simone Inzaghi's men have been chalk and cheese home and away this season, winning all four league games at San Siro and losing all three matches on the road - including a gut-wrenching late defeat to Udinese before the international break - so the return to familiar surroundings will be a relief as Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in line to feature against the side he left in the summer.
The contest will likely come too soon for Romelu Lukaku, who has been out since late August with a thigh issue, while for the capital club, Paulo Dybala is expected to be back fit following a leg injury.
Those tuning in can expect excitement. Inter's Serie A games this term have involved more goals than any other outfit (24) and this fixture has produced 17 goals in its last five meetings.
It will be fascinating to see how Milan respond after losing against title rivals Napoli prior to the international break - their first league defeat since January.
They have also since lost two key players to injury, with goalkeeper Mike Maignan and left-back Theo Hernandez returning from France duty with calf and abductor problems respectively. Both men are expected to miss the next few matches, with Maignan's prognosis slightly more severe as he could miss a month of action.
The good news for Stefano Pioli is that Rafael Leao and Davide Calabria will return to the fold, while Ante Rebic could be fit enough for a place on the bench.
Empoli were one of five Serie A clubs to change their manager over the summer as Paolo Zanetti replaced Aurelio Andreazzoli at Stadio Carlo Castellani.
The Azzurri are currently sitting 14th - where they finished last season - and while their defence is pretty solid, it remains to be seen whether they have anyone who can hit the back of the net on a regular basis, although Filippo Bandinelli has scored in his last two games, including a priceless winner at Bologna.
Empoli have never beaten Milan at home in Serie A, drawing and losing seven meetings apiece. Can they strike now while the visitors might be vulnerable, both physically and psychologically?
Maurizio Sarri was furious with his Lazio side after they were hammered 5-1 by Midtjylland in the Europa League, accusing them of playing with "immense arrogance".
The Eagles certainly responded emphatically after that rocket from their manager, thrashing relegation candidates Cremonese 4-0 to nudge themselves into the top four, leapfrogging AC Milan and city rivals Roma in the process.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile possess the most telepathic understanding in the league and showed it against the Serie A new boys, with the Italian joking earlier this month that the Serbia midfielder "knows me as well as my wife".
Spezia made a change in the dugout over the summer after securing survival for the second season running, former Udinese boss Luca Gotti taking over the reins from Thiago Motta.
A comeback win over Sampdoria last time out means they travel to the Stadio Olimpico sitting 12th.
However, the team based in Liguria will want to avoid a repeat of last season's corresponding fixture after they were thrashed 6-1, with Immobile getting a first-half hat-trick and finishing as the league's top scorer in 2021/22.
A clash between two newly promoted sides always feels significant, and especially so as both Lecce and Cremonese have found the going tough back in Serie A.
However, Sunday's hosts do at least come into this contest with a win under their belt, achieved in their last outing at Salernitana thanks to key man Gabriel Strefezza's brilliant curling winner in the 83rd minute.
The 19th-placed visitors meanwhile have just two points to their name after seven games and felt the full force of Lazio's wrath a fortnight ago, although Cremonese's calamitous defending didn't help, giving Massimiliano Alvini - in his first top-flight job after taking over this summer - much to ponder.
The two teams haven't met in Serie A since 1994, but that was an entertaining affair, finishing 4-2 to Cremonese. The Tigers will hope to show the same bite come Sunday.
Rock-bottom Sampdoria and 18th-placed Monza is a meeting of the two lowest scorers in Serie A so far this season.
However Monza, owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, do at least come into this fixture off the back of a superb 1-0 win over Juventus, as Christian Gytkjaer scored the winner to secure the Biancorossi their first-ever top-flight victory and give Raffaele Palladino the ideal start to life in charge following Giovanni Stroppa's sacking after one point from the team's opening six league games.
Palladino has much to learn after being fast-tracked into the role from the club's under-19 boss, but he takes over a dressing room higher on confidence than Sampdoria's right now.
This is Samp's 11th successive Serie A season, but it seems highly possible that it could be their last having most recently blown a one-goal advantage at Spezia, with the visitors that day putting through their own net as Alex Ferrari's attempted clearance dribbled in after deflecting off Jeison Murillo.
Sampdoria's problems aren't just confined to this season either; they've lost an eye-watering 18 Serie A games out of 26 in 2022, while Tottenham loanee Harry Winks is yet to make an appearance since arriving at the end of August due to an ankle issue, with no date yet set for his debut.
Sassuolo bagged their first win on the road this campaign thanks to Agustin Alvarez's 93rd-minute flicked header at Torino as the Uruguay international opened his Serie A account.
The Neroverdi are finding goals hard to come by after the departures of Gianluca Scamacca and Giacomo Raspadori, with only Monza and Sampdoria netting fewer in the division this term, so 1-0 victories like the one secured in Turin may be just what the doctor ordered this campaign.
Sitting two places below Sassuolo in 13th are Salernitana, who pulled off one of the great escape acts last term as 15 points from their last eight games - just under half their overall points tally - proved enough to survive on the final day.
This season has seen the Garnets make a steady start, albeit accompanied by an unwelcome trend of leads turning to draws during each of the last few matchdays.
On the bright side though, the signing of Boulaye Dia, on loan from Villarreal, could be one of the deals of the summer window, with the Senegal international scoring three and assisting two more in his opening seven league games for his new employers.
Gian Piero Gasperini's stint at Atalanta has been the stuff of dreams as the unfashionable boys from Bergamo have played in the Champions League in three of the last six seasons.
Last season saw the team perform below expectations, finishing eighth, but this campaign, Gasperini's men sit level on points from Napoli at the top of the tree following a gritty win at Roma.
The squad has been bolstered by the signings of midfielder Ederson, Brandon Soppy and Ademola Lookman, as well as the permanent capture of Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral, who has helped marshall the meanest defence in Serie A so far this term.
Teun Koopmeiners is the team's top scorer with four league goals, but the range of scorers in the side makes it tough for opponents to nullify them by frustrating one key player.
Last season was Fiorentina's best finish for six years, although the campaign was tarnished in January by the loss of striking extroardinaire Dusan Vlahovic, who still comfortably ended up as the Violets' top scorer last season despite his mid-season departure.
Indeed, finding a replacement for Vlahovic remains an issue, with Luka Jovic's only strike since his summer arrival from Real Madrid coming on the opening day against Cremonese.
The loss at newly promoted Monza before the international break represented a new low for Juventus on the field.
While the Turin side have made worse starts to a campaign - 2015/16 being the most recent example - sitting eighth after seven games, following back-to-back fourth-placed finishes, is not what fans of the Old Lady have become accustomed to.
A failure to win any of their five games in September in all competitions has put Massimiliano Allegri under serious pressure, with talisman Dusan Vlahovic even struggling to live up to expectations.
Angel Di Maria's red card against Monza for an elbow means he is suspended for at least the next two games, while Paul Pogba has yet to feature competitively for the Bianconeri since his summer return after a meniscus tear in his right knee.
Sixteenth-placed Bologna may be the ideal team to face in the circumstances, with the team low on confidence after a narrow loss at home to Empoli that leaves them just two points above the relegation zone and underlines the size of the task facing Thiago Motta after he replaced Sinisa Mihajlovic last month.
One player the Rossoblu can rely on to do damage though is Marko Arnautovic, who at the age of 33 is on course for the best scoring season of his career and sits top of this season's Serie A charts.
Monday night's BT Sport clash features two sides experiencing widely contrasting fortunes.
Hellas Verona were one of Serie A's great entertainers last season, finishing ninth, but after a summer in which they lost their head coach Igor Tudor and centre-back Nicolo Casale, along with the loan departures of influential attacking players Antonin Barak, Gianluca Caprari and Giovanni Simeone, the Gialloblu sit 17th and are managed by Udinese's caretaker from last season, Gabriele Cioffi.
Udinese's current boss, Andrea Sottil, took the reins in the summer - his first-ever top-flight job - and although the club are owned by the notorious Pozzo family that has continued its extraordinary trend of sacking managers at Watford, the Little Zebras incredibly sit third in the league, just a point behind Atalanta and Napoli.
Their latest win - a stunning 3-1 triumph at home to Inter - owed much to the creativity late on of Gerard Deulofeu, who, after hitting a post, teed up Jaka Bijol and Tolgay Arslan to send Stadio Friuli crazy.
Deulofeu is the joint-top assist-maker in the division with five, while fellow former Watford man Roberto Pereyra has four, and on the scoring front, hidden gem Beto is backing up his superb 11-goal Serie A debut season impressively, with four goals in the current campaign.