Serie A: Situation grows dire for Napoli’s Rafa Benitez; AS Roma look to keep pace

The weekend of Italian football will see Rafa Benitez continue fighting for his job steering floundering Napoli, away to Sassuolo, while Roma try to continue the impossible task of keeping up with Juve.

Rafa Benitez's Napoli side are in 10th in Serie A through four rounds of play. Filippo Monteforte / AFP
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It’s business as usual at the top of the Serie A table as joint leaders AS Roma and Juventus have maximum points heading into the fifth round of fixtures.

Juventus have yet to concede a goal and the three-time defending Italian champions visit Atalanta on Saturday. Earlier in the day, Roma host Verona.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina travel to Torino and Napoli visit Sassuolo looking to kick-start their campaigns after disappointing starts.

There is also a derby match on Sunday night as Genoa entertain Sampdoria.

Here are the things to know about the Italian league entering this week’s games:

Two horse race?

Juventus and Roma are the only sides which have won all four of their opening Serie A matches this season and new Juve manager Max Allegri is slowly beginning to win his doubters round.

Roma pushed Juventus all the way last campaign and look set to do the same this time around after spending more than twice as much as any other Italian club in the summer transfer window – EU€55 million (Dh257m). Coach Rudi Garcia insisted it is not yet a two-horse race for the title.

“Allegri has nothing to prove, he is a great manager and we know it,” Garcia said. “He has at his disposal a strong squad, which is looking to achieve top targets.

“We tried to reduce the gap in the summer, but it is still too early to talk about a Juventus-Roma duel.”

Invincible Juve

Juventus beat Cesena 3-0 on Wednesday to become the first team in Serie A history to win their opening four matches without conceding a goal.

Juve’s invincibility goes back further, however, as goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has not had to pick a ball out of his net since April 28 – a run of nine matches.

“At the end of the day, it’s always nice to break records but winning is what counts,” Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner said. “What has always been one of our strong points is that all the players attack and defend in unison.

“We have strikers and midfielders at our disposal who give their all and this offers us security.”

Title rivals Roma conceded their first goal of the season in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory at Parma.

Benitez clinging

This weekend could see the first sacking of the Serie A season, with Napoli coach Rafa Benitez hanging on to his job by an ever thinning thread after a dismal start to the season.

Napoli were dumped out of the Champions League before the competition even really got started as they lost the final qualifying round play-off to Athletic Bilbao, and they have won just one of their opening Serie A fixtures.

The pressure continues to mount after Benitez’s team lost 1-0 at Udinese last weekend before letting slip a 2-0 advantage to draw 3-3 at home to newly-promoted Palermo on Wednesday.

“It’s a question of calmness which we’re lacking at the moment and we need to get back, but in order to do so we need results, we need to be solid and compact,” Benitez said. “I’ve got to work on our mistakes.

“But not being in the Champions League and having a difficult start to the season makes everyone more nervous. For that reason I say that we need to get our calmness back.”

Napoli visit Sassuolo on Sunday.

Shaky Milan

Confidence has fallen in the AC Milan camp after a positive start to the season.

The mood was buoyant after Milan kicked off the season with two victories under new coach Filippo Inzaghi, but they lost at home to Juventus and were then forced to fight back from two goals down to draw at newly-promoted Empoli.

Milan are blazing in attack, having found the back of the net 10 times this campaign, and Fernando Torres scored in his first start for the club at Empoli.

However, they are looking decidedly shaky at the back, where they have already let in eight goals. Milan have not conceded as many goals in their opening four matches for 31 years and only Parma have a worse defensive record.

On Sunday, Milan visit Cesena, who have scored just three times so far this season.

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