Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan seek Sampdoria boost before Barcelona blockbuster
Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to return for Juventus on Saturday as Serie A leaders Milan head for Sampdoria seeking a boost ahead of their Champions League blockbuster against Barcelona next week.
Antonio Conte’s side are the only Italian team with maximum 15 points from five games with Maurizio Sarri’s champions Juventus second two points behind before they host struggling SPAL.
“Five wins in a row is no fluke, we’re getting into the right frame of mind,” said Conte, whose side followed up on their dire 1-1 European stalemate to Slavia Prague with wins in the Milan derby and against Lazio midweek.
“But we still have to grow a lot. We’re newborns at a project level,” added the former Chelsea boss of Inter who last won Serie A in 2010.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s Sampdoria have had a nightmare start to the season -- with the Genoa club sinking to four defeats in five games.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, looks set to return for Juventus at home against SPAL having missed last weekend’s game against Brescia with a muscular problem, with the Turin giants hosting Bayer Leverkusen in Europe next week.
In Naples, Serie A runners-up Napoli host Mario Balotelli’s Brescia desperate for a win after their surprise midweek reversal to Cagliari but without defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
Carlo Ancelotti’s southerners slipped six points behind Inter following their shock defeat to the Sardinians with Koulibaly sent off late in the game.
“I’m not in the slightest bit worried, not at all,” insisted Ancelotti.
“I don’t judge games only on the result.”
Ancelotti’s side travel to Genk next week in the Champions League looking to build on their impressive 2-0 win over European holders Liverpool.
Atalanta are third after their late 2-0 win over Roma and next travel to midtable Sassuolo before their first ever Champions League home game against Shaktar Donetsk.
The defeat to Atalanta ended Roma’s unbeaten run on the day England international defender Chris Smalling made his debut for the club, with their next game at Lecce on Sunday.
“We need to make sure we don’t slip up too many more times at home this season,” said Smalling. “I know that every game is going to be a battle and I’m ready for that -- bring on Sunday.”
AC Milan host Fiorentina with both teams struggling in the bottom half of the table. Marco Giampaolo’s Milan have lost their last two games with Fiorentina getting their first win last weekend.
One to watch:
Brescia forward Mario Balotelli will play for the eighth time against Napoli -- three times with AC Milan, twice with Inter Milan and once each with Manchester City and Nice.
But the Italy international has never won in his previous seven games with six defeats, one draw and just two goals scored -- with Man City in the Champions League in Naples in 2011 and in the San Siro with Milan in 2013.
Balotelli, 29, proved wasteful on his Brescia debut against Juventus last week, threatening several times but failing to finish off as the promoted side fell 2-1.