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5 things to know about the Italian league ahead of this weekend's matches
ROME - Five things to know about this weekend's Serie A matches:
PERFECT NAPOLI VS. INJURY-RIDDLED AC MILAN
Napoli has three wins from three matches in Serie A and opened its Champions League campaign by beating last season's runner-up Borussia Dortmund 2-1. AC Milan has won just once in the league so far and needed two late goals to eke out a 2-0 win over Celtic on Wednesday.
Milan players Riccardo Montolivo, Kaka, Stephan El-Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini, Ignazio Abate, Matias Silvestre and Mattia De Sciglio are all out injured. So the favourite is clearly Napoli for Sunday's match at the San Siro. In the win over Dortmund, Napoli's prized signing Gonzalo Higuain scored once and nearly had another when he drew a red card for the Dortmund goalkeeper before halftime.
QUESTIONS FOR JUVENTUS
Two-time defending champion Juventus showed signs of weakness twice in the past week. F
irst came a 1-1 draw at Inter Milan, then the Bianconeri needed a second-half equalizer from Fabio Quagliarella to draw 1-1 at FC Copenhagen in the Champions League. Next up for Antonio Conte's men is a home match with Hellas Verona, the promoted side that stunned AC Milan in the Serie A opener with two goals from former Italy centre forward Luca Toni, who is a questionable starter due to a slight injury. Juve is hoping that key midfielder Claudio Marchisio can return this weekend from a knee injury that has kept him out since last month's Super Cup win over Lazio.
Spanish striker Fernando Llorente has played just one minute in five matches with Juventus since transferring from Athletic Bilbao, and he's clearly not happy. Spanish media have reported that Llorente could bolt for England in the January transfer window if he doesn't get more playing time. But with Carlos Tevez, Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco ahead of him at forward, the situation might not change anytime soon. Juventus maintains that he needs to improve his physical form after a season in which he was at odds with Bilbao for refusing to extend his contract. Llorente scored 118 goals in 333 matches with Bilbao from 2005-13.
When Roma meets Lazio no extra hype is needed. The match is always hotly contested and often marked by fan violence as tensions between supporters for the two capital clubs boils over into the streets. However, Sunday's match has the added lustre of featuring a Roma squad that is level with Napoli for the Serie A lead after winning all three of its matches.
Roma's new French coach Rudi Garcia has won fans' approval with a disciplined approach that has conceded just one goal — against eight scored. Roma's 36-year-old captain Francesco Totti appears rejuvenated but perhaps more importantly "future captain" Daniele De Rossi has become a key member of the squad again after a season in which he didn't score a single goal. Newly signed central midfielder Kevin Strootman has also been a welcome surprise.
Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir appears to be closing in on a takeover of Inter Milan. Italian media say Thohir is set to sign a deal for 70 per cent of the club from current president Massimo Moratti. The deal has been estimated at €350 million ($467 million). Thohir is part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and D.C. United. Inter visits last-place Sassuolo in Sunday's lunchtime fixture.
Follow Andrew Dampf at http://twitter.com/AndrewDampfAP
(1 of 50 articles for this week)12/8/2013 10:51 PM 0
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