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Derby Della Mole headlines Serie A Match-Day 16

Inter Milan vs Udinese

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Saturday, 15-12-2018 @08:00 pm

Referee: Rosario Abisso

Inter look to bounce back from their midweek Champions League elimination when they host Udinese on Saturday. Luciano Spalletti’s men will be seeking redemption after their 1-1 home draw against Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven wasn’t enough to see them through to the Champions League Round of 16, even though Barcelona held Tottenham to a 1-1 draw. In consolation, as a result of finishing third in arguably the competition’s group of death, they were condemned to the Europa League’s Round of 32. Spalletti admitted after the match that the tension got to his team, and will be demanding a much stronger performance come Saturday. Their last Serie A win came on November 24, a 3-0 victory over Frosinone, and since then the Nerazzurri drew 2-2 with Roma and lost last week’s Derby d’Italia 1-0 thanks to Mario Mandzukic’s header. A win for Inter in this match would see them retain third place for at least another week as arch-rivals Milan are hot on their heels, three points behind them in fourth place. However, should they be victorious over the Friuliani, they will have to do so without Dalbert and Matias Vecino, although Radja Nainggolan is getting ready for his comeback.

Meanwhile, Udinese were sent back down to reality following Davide Nicola’s appointment as Coach. He defeated Roma on his debut, followed by an impressive 0-0 draw at Sassuolo. However, last weekend Kevin Lasagna’s strike wasn’t enough, as Duvan Zapata’s hat-trick meant Atalanta recorded a comfortable 3-1 victory. They are just two points clear of the dreaded relegation zone, and are in desperate need of a win in this match. They will have to make do without Emmanuel Badu, Lukasz Teodorczyk, Svante Ingelsson, Samir and Valon Behrami as they all battle injuries.

Inter have won six of their last seven Serie A games against Udinese.

Torino vs Juventus

Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Torino

Saturday, 15-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Marco Guida

It’s Derby Della Mole time in Turin as a much-improved Torino welcome their illustrious neighbours Juventus on Saturday night. A point last week in Milan pushed Torino up to sixth place in Serie A, confirming their growth in the season’s opening months. The Granata have lost just once in their last 10 Serie A games and have recorded five clean sheets in their opening 15 matches, as unsurprisingly their disciplinarian Coach Walter Mazzarri has made them difficult to beat.  Toro have a fully fit squad to choose from and are highly unlikely to stray from their tactician’s favoured 3-5-2 formation. There are perhaps a couple of undecided places in the starting XI, in attack and at right wing-back. Ola Aina was given the nod over Lorenzo De Silvestri for last weekend’s game, so far this campaign the two players have shared the responsibility of playing on the right of Torino’s midfield. Ahead of them, it is a choice between former Juventus player Simone Zaza and Iago Falque as to who will partner Andrea Belotti. The latter has been Mazzarri’s preferred choice, with Falque likely to keep his place again.

Juventus have set their sights on ending 2018 positively after setting a blistering pace at the top of Serie A. With 14 wins and a draw from their opening 15 league games, the Bianconeri are showing no signs of mercy. Last week’s victory over Inter maintained The Old Lady’s eight-point lead at the top and extended the gap over third to 14 points. Max Allegri’s team remain the only undefeated team in Europe’s top five leagues away from home in this calendar year. With the busy Christmas schedule approaching, Juve’s squad is close to full fitness. Medhi Benatia has been suffering with an inflammation in his knee, while Sami Khedira continues his recovery from injury, but Andrea Barzagli is out. Allegri rotated his starting XI for their midweek Champions League tie at Young Boys with the returning Alex Sandro included. However, Juan Cuadrado was withdrawn in the first half due to injury. Wednesday’s game in Switzerland was the ideal opportunity for squad players to get minutes and importantly, give a few regulars a rest ahead of this trip to Torino.  Juventus have not lost in Italy’s top flight since November 2017 and will not want to relinquish that record against their city rivals. They will be facing stubborn opposition and will need to call on their own resilience to succeed in this battle.

Juventus have historically completely dominated this fixture, recording 69 wins in comparison to Torino’s 35. Toro have won just one of the last 12 derbies they have hosted, with Juventus claiming nine wins and two ending in draws.

SPAL vs Chievo

Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara

Sunday, 16-12-2018 @02:30 pm

Referee: Luca Banti

Leonardo Semplici’s SPAL host strugglers Chievo Verona at the Stadio Paolo Mazza this weekend, where a win could take them into mid-table. SPAL come into this clash after earning a crucial point away to Genoa last time out, whilst Chievo were held by Parma. Biancazzurri have failed to win any of their last six Serie A games, with their last victory coming at the end of October, an impressive away triumph over Roma.

Meanwhile, Chievo President Luca Campedelli stated this week that he was not thinking about relegation, despite the perilous position the club currently finds themselves in. Domenico Di Carlo’s side are still a mammoth 10 points from safety and will face both Napoli and Milan in their next five games. Fabio Depaoli was sent off during Chievo’s last game and will be unavailable for selection. Fabrizio Cacciatore can therefore move to right-back with Mattia Bani on the left.

Andrea Petagna scored his fifth goal of the season last time out and will be hoping to continue his form in front of goal against the second worst defence in the league.

A win for Di Carlo’s men wouldn’t move them off the foot of the table, but as they are still searching for their first league win of the campaign, they need to start winning sooner rather than later.

Since the second reforming of SPAL in the summer of 2012, these two sides have met on three separate occasions, with SPAL yet to beat Chievo, managing two draws and a defeat.

Fiorentina vs Empoli

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence

Sunday, 16-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Piero Giacomelli

The last few weeks have seen a complete transformation in fortunes for Fiorentina and Empoli, setting up an unpredictable Tuscan Derby. La Viola were loving life under Stefano Pioli and started the season with four wins in their first seven games. However, that was followed by an eight-round winless streak stretching back to September. They’ve only lost once, drawing a mind-boggling six matches, four of which have been 1-1 results. Empoli on the other hand, struggled during the start of the season under previous Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli. However, since Giuseppe Iachini’s hiring in early November, they’ve won three out of their last four games and drawn the other.

Pioli has Fiorentina playing an incredibly direct style of football, whilst Iachini’s teams prefer to sit back and wait for the right time to pounce. One positive despite Fiorentina’s recent form is their home record over the season. It’s the fifth best in Serie A with 14 points in seven games. On the contrary, Empoli have amassed a measly three points in seven away fixtures, the third worst record in Italy’s top flight. The Viola have a lot of changes to make, as Nikola Milenkovic, Jordan Veretout and Edimilson Fernandes are all suspended. Kevin Mirallas scored the late equaliser against Sassuolo in a 3-3 thriller last week and should get the nod ahead of Marko Pjaca.

Empoli have only one injury concern, to ex-Fiorentina captain Manuel Pasqual, who hopes to be back for this reunion. He made 302 Serie A appearances with the Viola jersey between 2005 and 2016.

Fiorentina are on their longest Serie A winless streak since nine in May 2002.

Frosinone vs Sassoulo

Stadio Benito Stirpe, Frosinone

Sunday, 16-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Eugenio Abbattista

Sassuolo have gone badly off the boil lately and visit a Frosinone side desperate for points to survive in Serie A. A 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Napoli has raised further questions about Frosinone’s ability to retain their top-flight status. Their situation looks dire after recording just one win in their last 10 league matches. They sit in penultimate place with eight points, five below safety. This Sunday, Moreno Longo’s side play host to Sassuolo, who will be smarting from their disappointing 3-3 draw against Fiorentina, as they had been 3-1 up. The Mapei lads are yet to record defeat against teams in the bottom half of the table, registering wins against the likes of Spal and Chievo Verona on the road.

Sassuolo are perched in ninth place with 21 points and will be looking to improve their tally at the Stadio Benito Stirpe. Frosinone have drawn four of their last seven home games, with the rest ending in defeat. Meanwhile, Roberto De Zerbi’s men lost their last away game against Parma 2-1 and have registered just one victory in their last five games.

The home side will be missing Luka Krajnc, Luca Paganini, Emil Hallfredsson and Federico Dionisi with various degrees of injuries. Sassuolo will also be without Kevin-Prince Boateng, Claud Adjapong and Jeremie Boga, who are currently on the treatment table. Filip Djuricic begins his two-match ban for insulting the referee.

Frosinone have never beaten Sassuolo between Serie A and B, managing just three draws and five defeats.

Sampdoria vs Parma

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Sunday, 16-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Luca Pairetto

Only one point separates these sides going into the weekend, as Sampdoria and Parma have unlikely European ambitions.

This fixture always offers up fans plenty of entertainment, as there has yet to be a goalless draw in any of their meetings in the top flight. Samp are on a run of four games in all competitions without a loss, which covers a win and two draws in Serie A and a 2-1 victory over SPAL in the Coppa Italia. Doria’s last outing was a 2-2 draw away to Lazio in a game that saw Riccardo Saponara spectacularly equalise in the 99th minute after Ciro Immobile had tucked away a penalty in the 96th. They have lost just twice at home so far this season to Torino and Inter, while winning three and drawing the other two. Coach Marco Giampaolo will have to do without the services of Polish full back Bartosz Bereszynski, who is suspended after his red card against Lazio, but will otherwise have a fully fit squad to choose from.

Parma meanwhile are winless in their last two league games after winning their previous two against Sassuolo and Torino. Their last outing was a 1-1 home draw with tough battling Chievo in which centre-back Bruno Alves curled in a pin-point free kick in the second half to level things up. That draw came off the back of a narrow 2-1 away defeat to Milan in a game where Roberto Inglese had opened the scoring for the Ducali. Their current away form has been a mixed bag, winning three times on their travels in Serie A while losing the other four.

The last time this fixture was played in May 2015, the game finished as a 2-2 draw. Vasco Regini for Samp and Massimo Gobbi for Parma are the only players left from both the starting teams that day.

Boss Roberto D’Aversa will have a bit of a selection headache on his hands, as top scorer Gervinho is missing through injury and is joined by Alberto Grassi and Federico Dimarco on the treatment table. Bruno Alves is facing a late fitness test.

Sampdoria have both scored and conceded in each of their last six Serie A games, with a total 26 goals.

Cagliari vs Napoli

Sardegna Arena, Cagliari

Sunday, 16-12-2018 @08:00 pm

Referee: Daniele Doveri

Napoli aim to recover from their heartbreaking Champions League exit when they visit a Cagliari side still unbeaten on home turf.

The Partenopei’s 1-0 loss to Liverpool on Tuesday dropped them into third place in their group and subsequently into the Europa League’s Round of 32 stage. Carlo Ancelotti stated after the match that they are disappointed and will use their early exit from the competition as motivation going forward. The club’s first opportunity to do so will come against a Cagliari side that hasn’t lost at home yet this season.

Napoli’s defeat to Liverpool was arguably one of their worst performances this season, aside from their 3-0 loss against Sampdoria. It showed lacklustre quality, with their only run of good play coming in the last 10 to 15 minutes. This match against Cagliari, however, provides them with an opportunity to somewhat alleviate the heartbreak and consolidate second place in Serie A.

However, the Rossoblu are unbeaten in their last four matches and they enter this game off the back of a last-minute comeback draw against Roma. After referee Paolo Mazzoleni issued two red cards to Darijo Srna and Luca Ceppitelli in stoppage time, Marco Sau scored in the dying moments of the game to salvage a point for his side while also maintaining their unbeaten streak at home. Rolando Maran will be without his top goalscorer, former Napoli striker Leonardo Pavoletti, and two of his starting defenders, so beating a bitter and frustrated Napoli is bound to be quite the task.

Cagliari haven’t beaten Napoli since April 2009, losing nine of the last 11 Serie A meetings, home and away. The last two editions of this fixture in Sardinia ended 0-5.

Roma vs Genoa

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 16-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Marco Di Bello

Roma will be desperate to put their Serie A campaign back on track when they host Cesare Prandelli’s struggling Genoa on Sunday. The Giallоrossi suffered a second consecutive Champions League defeat on Wednesday after losing 2-1 to Viktoria Plzen away from home. Roma had already secured second place in prior to their trip to the Czech Republic, so the game did not affect their qualification, but it showcased many of the team’s problems. Eusebio Di Francesco’s men failed to keep their concentration throughout the whole 90 minutes yet again, just a few days after nine-man Cagliari equalised in stoppage time to steal a 2-2 draw. It seems that the lack of alternatives and reportedly Monchi’s backing of Di Francesco is giving another chance to the ex-Sassuolo Coach, however anything but a win against Genoa might see the tactician lose his job. Roma have been almost perfect against the Grifone in recent years, as La Magica have won seven of their last eight Serie A games against the Genovese outfit. However, the Giallorossi are in terrible form and have won just one of their last seven league games, registering four draws and two defeats during that stretch. Di Francesco’s men are currently sitting in eight place, five points off fourth place, which is occupied by Milan.

Genoa’s form has been even worse, as I Rossoblu are currently on a 10-game winless streak and occupy 15th place. The negative streak includes an embarrassing Coppa Italia penalty defeat against Serie C outfit Virtus Entella, which resulted in Ivan Juric’s sacking, as the Croat failed to win any of his eight games at the helm. After starting the season strongly with Davide Ballardini, Genoa lost identity under Juric and looked clueless in attack, despite having the Serie A top goalscorer in their ranks. The Grifone’s last victory was under Ballardini in September when they defeated Frosinone 2-1 away from home. This is Genoa’s only success outside of the Stadio Luigi Ferraris since the start of the campaign. Cesare Prandelli’s arrival should boost the the team’s confidence, as he is expected to bring more positivity and creativity to Genoa’s game. The former Nazionale tactician earned a point on his debut in the 1-1 draw against SPAL last week, despite Domenico Criscito’s red card in the 11th minute. With 11 league goals to his name, Krzysztof Piatek will unsurprisingly be Genoa’s main attacking threat against Roma. However, the Pole hasn’t scored a goal from open play since the 3-1 defeat against Parma in October, which was Ballardini’s last game at the club. Piatek’s goal drought highlights the disturbing lack of ideas in the Genoa attack. Getting the best out of Piatek and Christian Kouame will be one of Prandelli’s main tasks, as the Genoa striking duo has largely impressed since the start of the season. The cohesion between the two, as well as Roma’s unconvincing displays, will give Genoa hope that they can come home with a result from the Stadio Olimpico. The Grifone’s physicality and unorthodox style can cause major problems for the hosts, as Di Francesco’s men are short of confidence and regularly make silly mistakes at the back. However, Roma’s superior quality and their desperate need forpoints should give them the edge over the visitors, as Genoa have major problems keeping the ball, as well as defending crosses and set-pieces.

Daniele De Rossi, Edin Dzeko, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy are still absent for Roma due to various injures, while Prandelli has no injury concerns, but will have to do without his captain Criscito, who is serving a one-match ban because of his red card against SPAL.

Roma have won their last 12 Serie A games against Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico. The last time the Giallorossi failed to beat I Rossoblu at home was a 1-1 draw in 1994.

Atalanta vs Lazio

Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, Bergamo  

Monday, 17-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Daniele Orsato

This game could go a long way in showing how the rest of the season will pan out for Atalanta and Lazio. For the hosts, it would show that they are in the hunt for Europa League football and their recent run of form is no fluke, while for the visitors it would signify a dangerous drop off in form both domestically and on the continent, forcing them to look over their shoulder in the Serie A table.

Atalanta have almost appeared out of nowhere in the race for a European spot next season with just two losses in their last seven games, winning the other five with comprehensive and impressive victories over the likes of Parma and Inter, beating the latter 4-1 at home. While a loss away at Empoli when down to 10 men was a bump in the road and a late home defeat against Napoli was an almost expected detour, their 3-1 win at Udinese gave a good impression of their recovery skills. Just a matter of weeks ago when Gian Piero Gasperini’s side could not buy a win to save their life, this would have been a fixture they’d have dreaded, but with their renewed confidence after their two bumps in the road, coupled with their opponents’ poor form, they will be riding high going into Monday night’s game.

Lazio come into this fixture in very different mood. Without a win in all competition in their last six, only two Serie A victories since beating Parma 2-1 back at the end of October, they’ve dropped outside of the Champions League places, but it isn’t all bad for Simone Inzaghi. His side have qualified from their Europa League group, they’ve got a three-point cushion above sixth placed Torino and are just a point off of Milan in fourth, but the cause for concern will be their inability to hold a lead, to see games out and their occasional need to go behind in order to wake themselves up. Against Sassuolo, they took the lead after eight minutes, but conceded seven minutes later. They relied on a very late goal from Joaquin Correa to bail themselves out of a hole against Milan, Ciro Immobile got them out of a jam against Chievo after they fell behind in the first half and in an exciting game against Sampdoria they recovered from 1-0 down to go 2-1 up in stoppages, only to concede in the 99th minute.

For a team as good as Lazio, this isn’t acceptable, but at least they have the opportunity to right their wrongs from previous weeks with this fixture against a Europa League chasing rival.

Whoever wins this game will be riding high in the confidence department for the foreseeable future. For Atalanta, it verifies their charge for European football next season and gets them closer to Lazio, who themselves need to get back to winning ways and stop the slide.

Both sides have been on target in each of the last five meetings in Bergamo for a total 21 goals. Lazio have lost only one of their last eight Serie A games against Atalanta, winning four and drawing three.

Bologna vs AC Milan

Stadio Reneto Dall’Ara, Bologna  

Tuesday, 18-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Fabio Maresca

After shockingly being eliminated from the Europa League, Milan will have to pick themselves up as they take on Pippo Inzaghi’s Bologna on Tuesday evening. The Rossoneri were within touching distance of a Round of 32 berth as they traveled to face Olympiacos on Thursday. That being said, Milan had never beaten a Greek opponent on their own turf, with four draws and one defeat in five prior trips in Europe, and their 3-1 loss just further extends their hoodoo to six games and counting. It also naturally adds even more pressure on Gennaro Gattuso, as all Milan needed to do was simply earn a draw or even lose 2-1 to advance to the next round alongside Real Betis. Now that they are out of Europe, all the focus undoubtedly will be on trying to secure a top four spot to qualify for next year’s Champions League. With Lazio creeping up on them, though, Milan could face a tough battle to remain in those places if they don’t get themselves sorted out – quickly.

Injuries, of course, have not helped the Diavolo’s cause one bit, but they are expected to receive a reprieve of sorts, as potentially recovering both Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio for this game. That being said, Gattuso will have to decide if to risk them at all or to continue deploying Ignazio Abate as a make-shift centre-back.

Meanwhile, Inzaghi’s Bologna continue to flounder, as they are winless in their last eight games and the former Milan Coach continues to live on borrowed time at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. He will be looking to get the better of his ex-Rossoneri colleague Gattuso, who will be undoubtedly wondering what really went wrong with his side in Greece on Thursday evening.

Bologna have lost their last five Serie A meetings with Milan.

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