MILAN, Italy, Sep 15 – Battered Italian heavyweights Juventus and Napoli turn their focus back to the home comforts of Serie A this weekend after opening-round flops in the Champions League.
Juventus fell 3-0 in Barcelona with Napoli suffering a 2-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. Roma’s goalless draw to Atletico Madrid left Serie A sides with just one point between them from the first round of games in the elite European competition.
“We’re still feeling a bit bruised, as you might imagine. When you’re used to winning and being the best team on the pitch most times you play it’s pretty annoying to come back after a game like that,” Juventus skipper Gianluigi Buffon told the club’s website.
“It’s a good thing to feel annoyed, though. Great teams and great men prove themselves by coming though tough times.”
Six-time defending champions Juventus, Napoli and Inter Milan are all unbeaten in Serie A this season with a maximum nine points from three games.
And the trio look set to add another three points to their tally as Juventus travel to struggling Sassuolo; Inter visit lowly Crotone and Napoli host tailenders Benevento.
Roma — last season’s runners-up — return to domestic duty at home against Verona after last week’s trip to Sampdoria was postponed due to torrential rain in Genoa.
“The match against Sassuolo on Sunday is an opportunity for us to get going again with renewed confidence, togetherness and Juve mettle,” Buffon continued.
“The Milan sides are on the rise again, Napoli are still Napoli and Roma have changed tactics and probably have a different philosophy too now with a new sporting director.
“It all points to it being an evenly balanced title race, but we’ll find that out at the end. Last year we won the league by a smaller margin than in previous seasons after all.”
– Europa League boost –
Italy are riding high though in Europa League with Atalanta, AC Milan and Lazio all securing wins in the first round of group games.
Atalanta — returning to Europe after a 26-year absence — romped past English side Everton 3-0 and next travel to Verona club Chievo.
Andre Silva hit a hat-trick for Milan in a 5-1 victory at Austria Vienna to calm nerves after a 4-1 loss last week against Lazio. The Chinese-owned Milan club next host mid-table Udinese.
“It was important to play as a team after Sunday’s defeat,” said Milan’s Turkish midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. “We’ve found our team spirit again.”
Lazio earned a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem and next play at Genoa.
Fiorentina want to build on their 5-0 win over Verona against Bologna on Saturday ahead of a midweek trip to Juventus in Turin followed by Atalanta the following weekend.
Torino, who are fifth, take on Sampdoria on Sunday with promoted SPAL hosting Cagliari.
Fixtures (1300GMT unless stated)
Crotone v Inter Milan, Fiorentina v Bologna (1600), Roma v Verona (1845)
Sassuolo v Juventus (1030), AC Milan v Udinese, Napoli v Benevento, Torino v Sampdoria, SPAL v Cagliari, Chievo v Atalanta (1600), Genoa v Lazio (1845)