Inter Milan and Juventus are renewing an old Serie A title rivalry as Italy’s two most widely supported clubs head into a busy week leading the way.
Top of the league with a perfect 12 points, Inter is two in front of second-placed Juve ahead of its trip to pointless and goalless Empoli, which will be followed up on Wednesday with the visit of Sassuolo.
Simone Inzaghi’s side is riding high after smashing local rival AC Milan on Saturday and snatching an undeserved point at Real Sociedad in Wednesday’s Champions League opener.
It is already early favourite to reclaim a league crown taken off Juve two years ago which many fans believe should have been retained in 2022 when it took Milan to the final day of the season.
And after that battle of Italy’s economic capital, Inter currently has Juve, traditionally its fiercest rival, rather than reigning champion Napoli or reeling Milan - in third - as its closest challenger.
Inter should have little problem with rock-bottom Empoli, which is back under the control of Aurelio Andreazzoli after Paolo Zanetti was sent packing following its 7-0 thrashing at Roma last weekend.
Inzaghi is expected to pick a team more similar to the one which basked in derby glory than the one which disappointed in the Basque Country, the five changes made to Inter’s starting XI on Wednesday seen as an error which wasn’t properly punished.
Hakan Calhanoglu, one of the scorers in the derby, is likely to still be out of action with his thigh injury, leaving space for Davide Frattesi to make his first start for the club since arriving from Sassuolo in the summer.
For Juve, meanwhile, the midweek round of matches coming after Saturday’s trip to struggling Sassuolo is one of the few it will have to deal with after being banned from Europe this season.
Massimilano Allegri will be missing Alex Sandro with a hamstring injury at the weekend and against Lecce on Tuesday but won’t mind not having Conference League football clogging up his team’s schedule.
And after a broadly positive opening four matches, Juve has been tipped to take advantage of having a lighter schedule than the rest of Serie A’s big guns and push for a first Scudetto in four years.
Napoli has an awkward trip to Bologna on Sunday but will be boosted by Wednesday’s last-gasp win at Sporting Braga, the only success for an Italian club in the Champions League this week.
Coach Rudi Garcia has had a tricky start to life in Naples and his team sits fifth, five points off the pace as his team adapts to a new regime after the departure of title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti.
But there is no doubting his players’ commitment as late flurries brought a win in Portugal - which should have been secured earlier given the number of chances wasted - and salvaged a point at Genoa last weekend.
Player to watch: Davide Frattesi
Italy midfielder Frattesi should start in Tuscany after quickly becoming an Inter fan favourite for both goading the Milan players and then rounding off the scoring in the derby.
The 23-year-old, a substitute both at the San Siro and in San Sebastian, waved four fingers at Rade Krunic after being fouled by the Bosnia and Herzegovina international and two minutes later slotted home Inter’s fifth in stoppage time before ripping off his shirt in joy.
Frattesi also set up Lautaro Martinez’s strike which allowed Inter to escape Spain with a 1-1 draw.
12: Inter’s perfect points tally after four matches
3: Juve’s most recent league title came in 2020, three years ago
6: Serie A top scorer Lautaro Martinez’s goal tally in all competitions
Friday: Salernitana v Frosinone, Lecce v Genoa.
Saturday: AC Milan v Verona, Sassuolo v Juventus, Lazio v Monza.
Sunday: Empoli v Inter Milan Atalanta v Cagliari, Udinese v Fiorentina, Bologna v Napoli, Torino v Roma.
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