Cesare Prandelli is enthused by an exciting, youthful strike partnership at the San Siro
As some of you may have spotted, I have been on Super Bowl duty this week. Unfortunately the timing could not have been much worse, since this was also the week when Zdenek Zeman lost his job and Mario Balotelli returned in style. Rather than the usual blog, I've put together a few talking points; apologies for the reduced service, but we'll be back up and running at full speed next week.
• So yes, two goals for Balotelli on his Milan debut – even if the second ought never to have been possible, arriving as it did from the penalty spot after a perfectly legitimate sliding challenge from Thomas Heurtaux was deemed a foul by the referee Paolo Valeri. Balotelli was not even supposed to start the game but was thrust into action after Giampaolo Pazzini strained a muscle in the warm-ups.
Pazzini may have a hard time getting back into the team if the youthful forward line of Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy and M'Baye Niang continue to produce positive results. And it is not just Milan fans feeling enthusiastic about that combination. The Italy manager, Cesare Prandelli, was enthused by the idea of Balotelli and El Shaarawy playing together at club level.
"It's marvellous when certain pairings which can be useful to the national team come together at the same team, because then we get a natural advantage," said Prandelli, before making a bold promise. "If I win the World Cup [with Italy in 2014] I will give myself two mohawks."
• Roma's directors finally lost patience with Zeman after another humiliating home defeat. A 4-2 defeat by Cagliari left the Giallorossi eighth, and still nine points adrift of the Champions League places, though the decision seemed already to have been made before the game. The comments of the sporting director, Walter Sabatini, in midweek when he effectively accused the manager of having lost control of the dressing room, had left little room for manoeuvre. Zeman acknowledged his sadness at the decision but insisted it would not be the last we saw of him in management, saying: "They would have to shoot me."
• Not helping Roma's cause this week was a rather special own-goal from keeper Mauro Goicoechea, who diverted Danilo Avelar's cross into his own net with a volleyball-esque diving palm.
• Zeman wasn't the only manager to lose his job in Serie A this week, Gian Piero Gasperini's time at Palermo also came to an end after a 2-1 defeat at home by Atalanta left them bottom. If the sacking was justifiable, then the timing was certainly foolish. Just one week earlier the owner had placed a bet with a local radio host that he would not fire the manager – offering odds of 100-1. The host duly bet €50 and, if Zamparini is as good as his word, now stands to make €5,000.
• Goal of the week: Alessio Sestu for Siena in their 3-1 win over Inter. Not a bad result that, either, for the team who started the weekend bottom of the league.
• Goal of the week runner-up: Andrea Bertolacci for Genoa in their 3-2 win over Lazio. Defeat was not the worst thing that happened to the Biancocelesti, either, with Miroslav Klose suffering a knee injury that is expected to keep him out for two months. The situation is almost identical to last year, when Lazio barely missed out on a Champions League place after losing Klose to injury for March and April.
Their form had already been slipping this time around, with just two wins in five games since the start of 2013. It will only be harder for Lazio to reverse that trend without their leading goalscorer. They presently sit third, three points clear of both Inter and Milan. Fiorentina are just a point further behind.
• Speaking of Fiorentina, they managed their first win of the year, beating Parma 2-0. Stevan Jovetic certainly enjoyed the celebrations.
• Napoli briefly moved joint-top of Serie A, their 2-0 win over Catania on Saturday placing them level on points with Juve – before the Bianconeri won 2-1 at Chievo a day later. The newspapers have already started counting down to the teams' head-to-head at the Stadio San Paolo next month, but both sides have tricky fixtures to negotiate before then. Juve face Fiorentina next, then Roma away – with a Champions League game against Celtic sandwiched in-between. Napoli's next game is away to third-placed Lazio, and they must also travel to Udinese on 25 February.
• And finally: an interview with the cat that lives on Antonio Conte's head.
Results: Chievo 1-2 Juventus, Fiorentina 2-0 Parma, Genoa 3-2 Lazio, Milan 2-1 Udinese, Napoli 2-0 Catania, Palermo 1-2 Atalanta, Pescara 2-3 Bologna, Roma 2-4 Cagliari, Siena 3-1 Inter, Torino 0-0 Sampdoria