So here we are after the international break with what I feel will be a crucial month or so for us. We will have a load of tough matches, so it is important to get started on the right foot with one of the more winnable ones.
For our lineup, Rosina will be fit in time for the match, but we will still be missing Di Michele for another two weeks due to the injury sustained against Catania. Gazzetta reports:
This is probably the most solid team we've fielded for a while.
The problem I see with Ventola up front is for him to be fully effective, he needs Rosina and Recoba behind him creating chances. With Di Michele back it takes a little pressure off those two. As much as I like Ventola, he is not the same potent attacker that Di Michele is. Good to see our first choice midfield back, if Corini is on form and pulling the strings like he does so well then that could very well turn the tide of the game in our favor. Lanna still worries me at the back and I think playing Motta there would be worth a shot since Rubin is out for the season. Other than that, the defense needs to up their game after the debacle that led to Catania's goal last weekend. They are a good unit but an inconsistent one, and Sereni can't save us all the time.
I generally like the choices, and on the bench we have Fontana, Di Loreto, Motta, Zanetti, Stellone, Bjelanovic, and Lazetic, which gives Novellino a wide array of weapons to deploy off the bench. Motta brings us versatility, Zanetti is the type of player who plays quietly but effectively but can pull the unexpected, while Stellone and Bjelanovic give us two different options up front and Lazetic can inject some pace into our side. I'd be a bit disappointed if Malonga didn't get called for the game, I think he has been showing some real promise. Also a bit disappointed in not seeing Bottone especially after his inclusion in the U21 squad (that could precisely be the reason he's not here for the weekend game though).
Torino Man to Watch
I didn't want to say Rosina, because its too obviouos, so I looked at his partner behind Ventola. When healthy, Recoba can pose a lethal threat to opposition defenses as he possesses a great all-around attacking game. If he can link up well with Rosina and Ventola, the threesome will be sure to pose a huge threat to Empoli's defense.
As for the opposition, they are expected to line up like this:
Why they don't start Giovinco bewilders me, but all the better for us. Another player who can pull the strings for them, Giacomazzi, is out injured, which is a good break for us (but bad for my fantasy football team). Still, we have to be aware as Pozzi, Saudati, Vannucchi, and Abate can all cause our defense problems if we are not up to scratch. Beyond those players, I think we have the quality to dispatch of Empoli.
Empoli Man to Watch:
Saudati is a late bloomer after struggling with injury and often failing to impress at higher levels, but last season he scored 14 league goals and was voted into Italian PFA Team of the Year. He has scored two goals already this term and will be a potent threat to our defense.
Last time out this tie was a 0-0 draw, but I think we have the quality to better that. Empoli have been very irregular this term, pulling out results against bigger teams like Milan, Roma, and Palermo but have faltered against teams like Atalanta, Catania, and Siena. Their record at home this season is 1-2-2 but we have yet to win away with an 0-4-2 away record, so statiscally speaking a draw seems like a likely result. Let's just hope we can make that a win and keep them on the foot of the table.