Silvio Berlusconi’s current and former loves go head-to-head on Saturday when Monza host AC Milan looking to continue their thrilling debut Serie A campaign by taking another big scalp.
The only Italian top flight team yet to lose in 2023, Monza welcome the reigning champions with an eight-match unbeaten record to protect and the potential to further damage the team with whom Berlusconi won every honour in the game.
Raffaele Palladino’s side are just inside the top half of the table, level on 29 points with a Juventus team they beat home and away, and playing the kind of football that suggests their stay in Serie A is set to be a long one.
Since Palladino took charge in mid-September Monza have won half of their 16 league matches and had the season started at that point they would be fifth, only outside the Champions League places on goal difference.
Earlier this month former Italian prime minister Berlusconi said that he wanted Monza to aim for the league title next season “and the one after that”.
It may not be wise to put too much stock in what the ageing media magnate has to say given his promise of a “busload of hookers” if Monza beat one of Italy’s stripey big three.
But his ambition for the club is clear and he has put his money where his mouth is, respected football finance website Calcio E Finanza estimating his outlay via family holding company Finivest at 116 million euros in a club which was in the third tier when purchased in 2018.
He has entrusted team matters to his right-hand man and Monza native Adriano Galliani, who has built a team which as well as twice beating Juve also held Inter Milan to a 2-2 draw at home last month.
Making use of smart loan deals Galliani has recruited Italy internationals Matteo Pessina – another Monza man and club captain – and Gianluca Caprari, who is rediscovering the form which led to him scoring 12 goals for Verona last season.
However their task will be harder that it would have been a week ago as Milan are on a high after beating Tottenham Hotspur and giving themselves a chance of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in over a decade.
Milan’s dramatic slump, ended with wins of Spurs and Torino, left them without any realistic hope of retaining their league crown but are in the fight for a spot in next season’s edition of Europe’s top club competition.
Napoli kick off the weekend’s action on Friday night when they take on Sassuolo, a massive 15 points ahead of the pack and with a Champions League trip to Eintracht Frankfurt coming up next week.
On a run of six league wins on the bounce, Napoli have been given an unnecessary helping hand by their stuttering rivals, second-placed Inter Milan failing to win at a Sampdoria side in serious financial trouble on Monday night.
On Sunday night Inter host Udinese, who started the season strongly but have won only once in their last 14 league matches and could be overtaken by Monza should their dream run continue.
28 – The number of points Monza have collected since Palladino became coach.
15 – Napoli’s huge lead on Inter has them red-hot favourites for the Scudetto.
Player to watch: Victor Osimhen
Serie A’s top scorer is in the form of his life right now, eight goals in seven league matches since the turn of the year making him one of the most feared forwards in Europe.
The Nigeria striker is key to not just Napoli’s march towards a historic title triumph but also their chances in the Champions League as Eintracht await on Tuesday.
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