Derby della Mole, Milan vs. Roma headline massive round in Serie A

When the definitive book of derbies is penned in Italy, Torino manager Sinisa Mihajlovic would be a natural choice to write the preface. The Serb has been involved in pretty much all the ones that matter in Serie A either as a player or a coach, from the Derby della Capitale and the Madonnina to the Lanterna. On Sunday, he can add the Derby della Mole (Juventus vs. Torino) to that list. As can keeper Joe Hart, who will find some historical similarities between this rivalry and the one he experienced in Manchester.

It promises to be the most exciting in years. Torino have made their most prolific start to a season since 1947 and the days of the Grande Torino. Striker Andrea Belotti has drawn comparisons with Christian Vieri and, as a reward for his exploits in front of goal this year, signed at the weekend a contract extension until 2021, including a buyout clause for non-Italian clubs worth €100m, a figure even greater than the one Juventus paid Napoli for Gonzalo Higuain in the summer.

Higuain finally ended his goal drought against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday night and joined Belotti in double figures for the season. El Pipita had gone almost seven hours of game time without finding the net, which he put down to the transition he is undergoing at Juve where, lest we forget, he is adjusting to a new manager, a different system to the one he's used to, and new teammates who he is still getting to know. Further, Paulo Dybala's absence over the last six weeks has made it necessary for Higuain to cover a role that isn't his own: coming short to link the midfield with the attack.

Dybala is now back and Juventus manager Max Allegri has encouraged talk of fielding all his strikers up front together. Mario Mandzukic is undroppable at the moment and has drawn as many plaudits for the defensive shift he puts in for the team as he has for his goals. All three, though, will have to embrace his tireless work ethic if it is to work.

Right now it seems too soon and too much of a risk against Torino, particularly with the threat posed by Adem Ljajic, Iago Falque and Belotti and without two-thirds of the BBC, although Daniele Rugani's progression in Juventus colours comes as great reassurance. It's a bonus that he's a threat from set pieces too. Rugani has scored in back-to-back games, both from a couple of Miralem Pjanic corners, and this could be something to look out for on Sunday as it just so happens that six of the 19 goals Torino have conceded have come from these situations.

If that's Torino's weakness, going on the road after European commitments is Juventus'. OK, the Stadio Grande Torino is only down the road, but all of the champions' defeats (three) this season have directly followed appearances in the Champions League. Torino, incidentally, are unbeaten at home.

Two sides that hope the Granata repeat what they did 18 months ago, when they beat Juventus for the first time in two decades, are Roma and AC Milan. Level on points in second place, they meet at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday night in a game billed as a playoff to decide who is Juventus' No.1 contender. There have been cries of injustice in Rome after retrospective action was taken to ban Kevin Strootman for two matches for simulation in the Rome derby. He'll miss the Milan game and the trip to Juventus a week later.

Suspicions have inevitably been aroused and aspersions cast. Roma have launched an appeal and hope to get a hearing on Friday. In the meantime, the controversy can't be allowed to become a distraction. The win against Lazio was another step in the right direction for Roma. They did it without Alessandro Florenzi, Leandro Paredes and Mohamed Salah, and without playing well for an hour. Perhaps most importantly of all, though, Roma did what their detractors say they don't do enough; they kept their heads and came through a difficult game. Roma are aware you can't always be pretty. Against Lazio they found beauty in winning ugly.

This is definitely one of the secrets to Milan's season, as well. They are a most un-Vincenzo Montella-like side. Compared with his Spanish style Fiorentina, his Milan are more stereotypically Italian. They average less possession, attempt fewer passes and play an effective counterattacking game. Mature beyond their years -- Milan have the youngest average age in Serie A -- they play rope-a-dope with opponents, letting teams wear themselves out in the first half before catching them with a sucker punch in the second. People say the young have no fear and there surely is an element of that. Milan aren't fazed by anything. Going behind or getting pegged back doesn't seem to bother them as it did in recent years. They just push on and get the job done.

It seems the kids can't believe their own luck and are seizing this opportunity with both hands. That also goes for players like Suso and Gianluca Lapadula. One was written off by Liverpool and has a point to prove. The other has spent all his career in the lower divisions and plays every game with Milan as if it were his last. What he lacks in natural talent he makes up for in blood, sweat and tears. Consider Lapadula the new Salvatore Schillaci, Dario Hubner and Igor Protti -- strikers who had to wait a long, long time to get their chance in Serie A and then took it by storm. Mix it all together and what you get is a Milan team with an incredible spirit about it.

Will it be enough against a Roma team that has more quality? We shall see. As with Higuain and Belotti in the Derby della Mole, all eyes Monday night will be on the strikers, Lapadula and current co-Capocannoniere Edin Dzeko.

A massive round in the title race awaits.