Serie A Preview | Roma vs. Torino: Another shake-up for Mourinho

Jose Mourinho is forced to reshuffle his Roma pack yet again, this time due to a lack of midfielders, while Torino try to improve their away record.

The Giallorossi seem to go into every game at the moment with a myriad of new problems. Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar are still positive for COVID-19, with Riccardo Calafiori and Leonardo Spinazzola injured. Now Jordan Veretout is suspended, leaving few options in midfield, so Lorenzo Pellegrini could drop back.

Toro really are a different prospect on home turf, managing three consecutive victories at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, along with three away defeats in a row. Andrea Belotti is trying to rediscover his form after that ankle injury and contract dispute.

Form Guide: Roma (W L L W D) Torino (W L W L W)

Stat fact: These two teams haven’t played a Serie A draw since December 2015, followed by eight Roma wins and three for Torino.

Probable line-ups

Roma (3-4-1-2): Rui Patricio; Kumbulla, Mancini, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Pellegrini, Darboe, El Shaarawy; Mkhitaryan; Abraham, Zaniolo

Suspended: Veretout

Injured: Spinazzola, Cristante, Villar

On a yellow card: Karsdorp, Cristante, Mancini, Abraham

Torino (3-4-2-1): Milinkovic-Savic; Djidji, Bremer, Buongiorno; Singo, Lukic, Pobega, Vojvoda; Linetty, Brekalo; Belotti

Suspended: None

Injured: Verdi, Rodriguez, Ansaldi, Mandragora, Edera

On a yellow card: None

Serie A Preview | Spezia vs. Bologna: Pressure back on

Spezia and Bologna are both coming off painful defeats, just as they were starting to find some confidence.

Despite that 5-2 hammering by Atalanta, Thiago Motta’s Spezia are still out of the bottom three and hope to remain there. Emmanuel Gyasi is suspended, so Antiste joins Daniele Verde and M’Bala Nzola upfront, while Nikolaou returns from his ban.

Bologna had won back-to-back games until the 1-0 home loss to Venezia. That could prompt a reshuffle on the right, where Riccardo Orsolini and Ibrahima Mbaye are in the running.

Form Guide: Spezia (L W L D L) Bologna (L W W L L)

Stat fact: Spezia are the fourth side in this Century to concede over 30 goals in the opening 13 Serie A rounds. The others were Parma in 2014-15, Benevento in 2017-18 and Torino in 2020-21.

Probable line-ups

Spezia (4-3-3): Provedel; Amian, Erlic, Nikolaou, Bastoni; Kovalenko, Sala, Maggiore; Verde, Nzola, Antiste

Suspended: Gyasi

Injured: Bourabia, Sena, Agudelo, Sher

On a yellow card: None

Bologna (3-4-2-1): Skorupski; Soumaoro, Medel, Theate; Orsolini, Dominguez, Svanberg, Hickey; Soriano, Barrow; Arnautovic

Suspended: None

Injured: Schouten, De Silvestri, Skov-Olsen, Kingsley

On a yellow card: Dominguez, Medel, Hickey

Serie A Preview | Milan vs. Sassuolo: Maignan returns for Rossoneri

Milan lost their unbeaten Serie A record, but Mike Maignan is back in goal as they host unpredictable Sassuolo.

The Rossoneri remained joint leaders despite the 4-3 defeat to Fiorentina, as Napoli also fell away to Inter last weekend. Their confidence was restored almost immediately with a midweek Champions League win at Atletico Madrid and, while Olivier Giroud joins the absentee list, goalkeeper Maignan returns ahead of schedule.

Sassuolo thought they wouldn’t have Davide Frattesi after he was punished for using a blasphemous phrase, but he won his appeal. Gianluca Scamacca and Gregoire Defrel are very different alternatives for the centre-forward role.

Form Guide: Milan (L D W W W) Sassuolo (D L L W W)

Stat fact: Milan have not lost any points from a leading situation in Serie A this season, whereas Sassuolo fumbled 13.

Probable line-ups

Milan (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz, Leao; Ibrahimovic

Suspended: None

Injured: Giroud, Rebic, Calabria, Castillejo, Plizzari, Tomori

On a yellow card: None

Sassuolo (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Toljan, Chiriches, Ferrari, Rogerio; Magnanelli, Lopez; Berardi, Raspadori, Traore; Scamacca

Suspended: None

Injured: Obiang, Romagna, Djuricic, Boga, Goldaniga

On a yellow card: None

Serie A Preview | Udinese vs. Genoa: Shevchenko seeks first points

Andriy Shevchenko seeks his first points on the Genoa bench and visits an Udinese side with one win from their last 10 games.

The new Grifone coach made his debut in a 2-0 home defeat to Roma, but had held out well for almost 80 minutes until the breakthrough. Injuries continue to pile up, so Flavio Bianchi is pushing for a starting spot upfront.

Udinese have a full squad to choose from, although their problem is in attack, scoring just seven goals in the last six games.

Form Guide: Udinese (L W L D D) Genoa (L D D D L)

Stat fact: Genoa have not beaten Udinese in Serie A since February 2016, managing four draws and six defeats, home and away.

Probable line-ups

Udinese (3-5-2): Silvestri; Becao, Nuytinck, Samir; Molina, Pereyra, Walace, Arslan, Udogie; Deulofeu, Beto

Suspended: None

Injured: None

On a yellow card: Samir, Walace

Genoa (3-5-2): Sirigu; Biraschi, Masiello, Vasquez; Sabelli, Sturaro, Badelj, Rovella, Cambiaso; Bianchi, Ekuban

Suspended: None

Injured: Criscito, Maksimovic, Bani, Fares, Destro, Caicedo

On a yellow card: Biraschi

Serie A Preview | Torino vs. Udinese: Granata challenge Gotti

Torino injuries continue to pile up for Ivan Juric, while Luca Gotti’s Udinese hope to find some consistency after finally ending their negative streak.

The Granata are putting together a series of home wins, only to suffer slender defeats away, so are aiming to keep that trend going on Monday evening.

Ricardo Rodriguez and Dennis Praet picked up new injuries on international duty, with Koffi Djidji and Simone Verdi already on the treatment table. At least Josip Brekalo returns, while Rolando Mandragora and Cristian Ansaldi should be fit for the bench after their lay-offs.

Udinese ended their dismal run of results with a 3-2 win over Sassuolo just before the break for international duty. Jean-Victor Makengo sits out a ban, so Tolgay Arslan is expected to start in midfield. Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra should be feeding the supply line to on-form striker Beto.

Form Guide: Torino (L W L W L) Udinese (W L D D D)

Stat fact: Andrea Belotti has found the net in each of his last three Serie A games against Udinese, while in total he put seven goals past them in 14 meetings.

Probable line-ups

Torino (3-4-2-1): V Milinkovic-Savic; Izzo, Bremer, Buongiorno; Singo, Lukic, Pobega, Aina; Brekalo, Pjaca; Belotti

Suspended: None

Injured: Verdi, Djidji, Praet, Rodriguez

On a yellow card: None

Udinese (3-4-2-1): Silvestri; Becao, Nuytinck, Samir; Molina, Walace, Arslan, Udogie; Pereyra, Deulofeu; Beto

Suspended: Makengo

Injured: None

On a yellow card: Samir

Serie A Preview | Verona vs. Empoli: Bentegodi battle

Igor Tudor is forced to reshuffle Hellas Verona amid bans and injuries against an Empoli side who travel well this season.

The Verona coach was self-isolating during the break for international duty after he tested positive for COVID-19, but is back and available on the Stadio Bentegodi bench. The same cannot be said of suspended Nikola Kalinic and Daniel Bessa, while Ivan Ilic, Darko Lazovic and Gianluca Frabotta are injured.

Empoli have a full squad to choose from and an impressive away record so far in Serie A this term, winning four out of five games outside the Stadio Castellani, compared to just one win on home turf.

Form Guide: Verona (D W D W L) Empoli (D W L W L)

Stat fact: A win would allow Empoli to equal their best ever start to a Serie A season, with 19 points in 13 rounds in 2006-07.

Probable line-ups

Verona (3-4-2-1): Montipò; Dawidowicz, Gunter, Ceccherini; Faraoni, Tameze, Veloso, Casale; Barak, Caprari; Simeone

Suspended: Bessa, Kalinic

Injured: Frabotta, Ilic, Lazovic

On a yellow card: None

Empoli (4-3-1-2): Vicario; Stojanovic, Tonelli, Viti, Parisi; Zurkowski, Ricci, Bandinelli; Henderson; Di Francesco, Pinamonti

Suspended: None

Injured: None

On a yellow card: None

Medvedev v Zverev: An Epic Final In Prospect

While the major championships have been the domain of the Big 3 — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — for so long, in recent years the Nitto ATP Finals has proven to be a happy hunting ground for the sport’s younger stars. Alexander Zverev (2018), Stefanos Tsitsipas (2019) and Daniil Medvedev (2020) have all made their big breakouts as champions of the season finale.

And it’s no different this year, when, at the end of a thrilling 2021 season, Medvedev and Zverev will square-off once more at the Pala Alpitour in Turin in a blockbuster title match.

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Preview: Ram/Salisbury Target Perfect Week As They Face Herbert/Mahut

Their 12th ATP Head2Head meeting comes only five days after the Russian’s 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(6) victory over Zverev in the Red Group at the season finale, when Medvedev explained how his “hands were shaking”. Afterwards Zverev said: “I still have a chance to win the tournament and this is what I’m thinking to myself.”

Tennis fans will be hoping for the same quality on Sunday when both Medvedev and Zverev aim to capture their sixth tour-level titles of 2021.

Medvedev is 9-0 at the Nitto ATP Finals since his 0-3 debut in 2019. He would be the first repeat champion since Djokovic swept four straight titles in London from 2012-15. As part of that run, Djokovic won 15 consecutive matches.

On Sunday, Zverev will attempt to repeat his 2018 feat of overturning a defeat in the round-robin stage to the player he faced in the final. At The O2 in London, the German avenged his round-robin loss to Djokovic with a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the championship match for the biggest title of his career.

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While Medvedev may have the psychological edge having won their past five matches, Zverev arrived in Turin insisting, “I didn’t come here just as a participant, but I want to win matches and do well here.” With Medvedev beating Zverev by such small margins on Tuesday, arguably the confidence the German gained in defeating World No. 1 Djokovic 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in Saturday’s semi-finals may be a key factor in breaking Medvedev’s streak.

Medvedev, speaking after his 6-4, 6-2 win over Casper Ruud in the semi-finals, admitted, “Sascha [has a] big serve, big shots. Quite the same forehand, backhand. [He is an] all-around player. Runs well, he hits well if he has an easy ball to play. [He is a] complete player, knows how to do everything. [A] great serve, great returner.”

Incredibly, Medvedev and Zverev have also both recorded an ATP Tour-best 58 match wins ahead of their fourth clash at the Nitto ATP Finals. Medvedev experienced a high in winning his first major at the US Open (d. Djokovic) in September, while Zverev also beat Djokovic en route to the Tokyo Olympics gold medal (d. Khachanov) in August.

Zverev has compiled a 31-4 match record since the Olympics and is looking forward to Sunday’s clash. The German admitted, “I lost 8/6 in the third set in the group stages [on Tuesday], so I’m just looking forward to the final as I think it will be a great one. Outside of the Slams and the Olympics, this is the biggest tournament in the world.

“It features the best eight players and is difficult to win. I’m looking forward to having another chance [against Medvedev]. He is one of the best players in the world right now, so it’s going to be a difficult match no matter what.”

World No. 3 Zverev won their first season finale match 6-4, 7-6(4) in November 2019. It marks his last victory over No. 2-ranked Medvedev, who went on to beat the German star 6-3, 6-4 in the 2020 season finale.

Preview: Ram/Salisbury Target Perfect Week As They Face Herbert/Mahut

If the Nitto ATP Finals doubles final proves to be anything like the match the same two teams played during the round-robin stages, the clash of US Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury with 2019 season finale winners Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut could be one to remember.

Ram and Salisbury beat Herbert and Mahut 6-7(7), 6-0, 13-11 on Tuesday, but Herbert and Mahut knew they still had an excellent chance to make it to the semi-finals – a chance they took and capitalised upon when they reached their third final as a team at the season-ending championships.

For three of the four finalists, this rarefied territory is familiar. Ram made the title match at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2017 alongside Raven Klaasen. Herbert and Mahut are into their third straight final at the season finale, having lost in 2018 despite holding match point on Mike Bryan and Jack Sock, and triumphed in 2019 over Klaasen and Michael Venus.

The odd man out is Salisbury, who became the first British player to reach the doubles final when he and Ram defeated World No. 1 team Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 4-6, 7-6(3), 10-4 in the semi-finals.

“I didn’t know that,” Salisbury said after being informed of the record. “Obviously it makes it extra special, I suppose. Hopefully there’ll be a lot more.

“It’s a big, big achievement, obviously really, really proud of it, but I don’t want to be just a Brit getting to the final, I want to be the one winning it. Obviously we’re enjoying the win right now but we’re going to be back to business soon and really focusing on the match tomorrow and getting the title.”

Ram and Salisbury, who claimed their second Grand Slam title at the US Open this year, trailed Mektic and Pavic 1-4 in the ATP Head2Head coming into the match and Salisbury said it felt “really, really good” to get the win, after the pairing lost in last year’s semi-finals despite holding two match points.

“Especially in this tournament, the biggest ATP tournament of the year, and the way we did it, coming from a set down, not playing our best,” Salisbury added. “We were really up against it and we showed a lot of character, a lot of fighting spirit to stick in there and to believe that we could turn it around and play our best at the end.”

In a semi-final lineup which featured the top four seeds for the first time at the Nitto ATP Finals since Shanghai in 2007, Herbert and Mahut followed Ram and Salisbury into the final with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

Victory for Herbert and Mahut would see them make history as the first French pairing to win the Nitto ATP Finals more than once. It would also crown a season which has already seen them become the eighth doubles team in history to complete the career Grand Slam when they beat Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev in the final of Roland Garros. They also won the Queen’s Club title and finished runner-up in Lyon and at the Rolex Paris Masters.

“He’s 39 and he’s just like a junior!” Herbert joked about his veteran partner after Mahut’s determined pursuit of a drop shot left him with no option but to hurdle the net during their semi-final match against Granollers and Zeballos.

“It would mean a lot [to win the title],” Mahut said. “It’s the greatest event on the ATP [Tour]. We had the chance already to win the trophy, and we know the difference between losing in the final and winning in the final is a big difference. And personally I really like the trophy, I think it’s one of the best of the year, so I would love to have it one more time in my hands.”

The ATP Head2Head between the two teams, both of whom are looking for their third title of 2021, stands at 1-1. Ram and Salisbury are unbeaten at the Pala Alpitour this week, but Herbert and Mahut have the experience of winning this title – and played their best tennis of the tournament in the semi-finals. This could be a Nitto ATP Finals doubles final to savour.

Serie A Preview | Genoa vs. Roma: Shevchenko debuts with Mourinho

Andriy Shevchenko makes his debut on the Genoa bench with an injury crisis on his hands, as Jose Mourinho tries to get Roma back on track after a dismal run.

The Ballon d’Or winner takes on his first club role after several years as coach of the Ukraine national team, replacing Davide Ballardini and truly marking the start of the 777 Partners era running Genoa. He’s got a reduced squad to choose from, as injuries continue to pile up, with Domenico Criscito and Felipe Caicedo the latest additions. Sheva is expected to adopt a 3-4-1-2 formation with Pablo Galdames supporting the strikers.

As for Roma, Mourinho needs to wrestle the team back on track after one win in the last five Serie A rounds, not including the dire performances against Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League. There is also a COVID outbreak reported in the squad, with Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar positive, but at least Lorenzo Pellegrini is back from injury.

Form Guide: Genoa (D D D L D) Roma (L L W D L)

Stat fact: Roma are unbeaten against Genoa in 14 Serie A meetings, winning 11 and drawing three, and their last defeat at Marassi was in May 2014.

Probable line-ups

Genoa (3-4-1-2): Sirigu; Biraschi, Vasquez, Masiello; Cambiaso, Badelj, Rovella, Sturaro; Galdames; Pandev, Ekuban

Suspended: None

Injured: Criscito, Caicedo, Maksimovic, Bani, Cassata, Hernani, Fares, Destro

On a yellow card: Biraschi

Roma (3-4-1-2): Rui Patricio; Kumbulla, Mancini, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Darboe, Veretout, El Shaarawy; Pellegrini; Shomurodov, Abraham

Suspended: None

Injured: Spinazzola, Vina, Smalling, Calafiori, Cristante, Villar

On a yellow card: Cristante, Mancini, Veretout, Abraham, Karsdorp

Serie A Preview | Inter vs. Napoli: Another top three tussle

It is another head-to-head at the top of the table for Inter after their draw with Milan, this time hosting the other joint leaders Napoli.

The Nerazzurri are hanging in there during these early months of the Scudetto race, aiming to defend their title under new coach Simone Inzaghi, but there are injury concerns after international duty for Stefan de Vrij and Alexis Sanchez. Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko and Alessandro Bastoni had issues too, but should be ready to start, although the Bosnian might be rested ahead of the Champions League.

Kalidou Koulibaly returns to the Napoli defence after his ban, but Matteo Politano is ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19, joining Diego Demme in isolation. Adam Ounas picked up a muscular injury for Algeria, so Chucky Lozano will get a rare start just days after saying he wanted to join a ‘bigger’ club.

Form Guide: Inter (D W W D L) Napoli (D W W D W)

Stat fact: Napoli have failed to score in their last four Serie A trips to Inter, since Jose Callejon’s winner in April 2017.

Probable line-ups

Inter (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, Ranocchia, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Correa, Lautaro Martinez

Suspended: None

Injured: De Vrij, Alexis Sanchez

On a yellow card: None

Napoli (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Anguissa, Fabian Ruiz, Zielinski; Lozano, Osimhen, Insigne

Suspended: None

Injured: Demme, Politano, Ounas

On a yellow card: Anguissa, Mario Rui