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Injury stricken Roma host inconsistent Inter in Serie A Match-Day 14 headline fixture

SPAL vs Empoli

Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara

Saturday, 01-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni

Just one point separates these sides in the table, with Empoli on a roll after two consecutive victories and SPAL floundering. The home side are on a poor run of form, losing three of their last four games and have won just once in nine. Their most recent outing was a 2-0 loss away to Champions Juventus, which followed on from a 2-2 draw at home with Cagliari. Coach Leonardo Semplici’s job isn’t under threat, but he will know that his side will have to start picking up points at home if they are to stay in the top flight for another year. His side have won just once in their last five homes games, while their opponents have yet to win on their travels in the league this season. Semplici has a largely fully healthy squad to pick from, with just Francesco Vicari and Lorenco Simic carrying knocks, and will probably go with his predictable and settled first XI.

Empoli, on the other hand, are coming off the back of two wins on the bounce which saw them lift themselves out of the relegation zone. Both those victories did however come in their home ground of the Stadio Carlo Castellani, a 2-1 victory over Udinese and last weekend’s 3-2 defeat of Atalanta in a game where they came back from two goals down. Francesco Caputo has scored in three of his last four matches for the Azzurri and would have extended that run to four in a row if his penalty hadn’t had been saved last weekend by Atalanta keeper Etrit Berisha. Caputo, who has six goals to his name so far this season, has found the back of the Biancazzurri net before whilst playing for Virtus Entella in Serie B and he should be relishing the chance to add to that tally in this match. Coach Beppe Iachini will have to do without the services of defender Lorenzo Polvani, who is out for the season, while midfielder Lorenzo Lollo is side-lined for a few more weeks yet.

These sides have never met in Serie A before.

Fiorentina vs Juventus

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Firenze

Saturday, 01-12-2018 @08:00 pm

Referee: Daniele Orsato

The Stadio Artemio Franchi will be a cauldron of noise as Fiorentina welcome bitter rivals Juventus in a game that is guaranteed to be an intense and highly charged affair. Fiorentina’s season has stuttered in recent weeks with just two wins in their last 10 matches and they come into this one off the back of five consecutive draws. Undefeated at home and with the joint second best defensive record in the league, La Viola are proving a resilient opponent. However, with a cluster of teams in close proximity, they must return to winning ways if they wish to maintain their place in the top eight. First choice centre back German Pezzella remains an injury doubt after missing the game against Bologna. Federico Ceccherini is ready to continue in Pezzella’s absence after a strong display last weekend. Marko Pjaca is unlikely to start against his parent club after picking up a recent injury. Stefano Pioli’s men last scored more than once back in September against Atalanta and have found goals hard to come by ever since.

Max Allegri’s Bianconeri juggernaut marches on in Serie A. After 13 games the signs are already beginning to look ominous for the rest of the league, with Juventus opening up an eight-point gap at the top. Undefeated in Italy’s top division, The Old Lady are the only team in Europe’s top five leagues not to have lost an away game in 2018 and they will not want to relinquish that record on Saturday. With a tough looking calendar ahead of them, Giorgio Chiellini and co will recognise the importance of maintaining their lead at the top as they enter this tough run. After securing qualification to the knock-out rounds of the Champions League, Juve’s main focus will now be on domestic matters and tightening their stranglehold over the rest. Former Viola player Federico Bernardeschi returned to training in the week and is sure to be in for a frosty reception from his old club. Sami Khedira remains a doubt and Emre Can is out but did begin his road to recovery this week after recent surgery to remove a thyroid nodule. Cristiano Ronaldo made history against SPAL last weekend, as he broke a near 50-year-old-record by hitting nine league goals quicker than any other Juventus player in history.

There’s masses of history to this fixture and no love lost between the two sets of fans with Juventus dominating this contest over the years. For fans of the Tuscan club, games come no bigger and their passion for this heated tussle is like no other.

Fiorentina have won just 33 of 158 matches played against Juventus (a win percentage of 22%), their lowest total against any of the sides in Italy’s top flight.

Sampdoria vs Bologna

Stadio Communale Luigi Ferraris, Genova

Saturday, 01-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Rosario Abisso

Sampdoria are still fighting to end their slump and there’s no better opportunity to do that than welcoming relegation candidates Bologna. The Blucerchiati ended a three-match losing run at the weekend in the Derby della Lanterna, with the timeless Fabio Quagliarella scoring in the 1-1 draw, but Genoa probably deserved to win. Samp have not won a league game since the beginning of October and have just two wins in their last 10 Serie A outings.

As for the away side, they have only lost one of their last five games in the league, but have just two wins this season, with both of them coming back in September. The Rossoblu are yet to win away from home this season and the head-to-head record is not in their favour.

These two sides have faced each other 26 times in the league and on only three occasions has the away side taken home three points. The last away victory was back in 2003, when Sampdoria won 1-0 in Bologna, and the hosts have come out victorious in the last six meetings. Even worse for Filippo Inzaghi’s men, they haven’t won at Marassi since a 3-2 thriller in March 1998, managing just three draws and eight defeats. Marco Giampolo’s Sampdoria side are definitely not where they would want to be at this stage of the season, especially given they beat Napoli 3-0 in the first few rounds. Ending the losing run in the derby should give them some confidence and the fact they have lost just four of their last 15 league games at home should also help their cause. Bologna have drawn four of their last five and will, therefore, be hopeful of a similar outcome here, a result that could lift them out of the relegation zone. However, their inability to keep clean sheets is a worry, averaging the concession of two goals a game away from home. Sampdoria have the attacking quality to pick apart most teams in Serie A, especially at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

The strike force of Gregoire Defrel and Quagliarella has amounted to 11 goals in the league this season and, despite their goals drying up in recent weeks, this should be the ideal game to reignite Samp’s season.

Bologna have not won a game away from home in 2018.

AC Milan vs Parma

Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan 

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

Referee: Giampaolo Calvarese

It’s remarkable that only two points separate these sides going in, considering Milan ambitions compared to newly-promoted Parma. Given the way these two sides are playing, this not only could prove to be an entertaining and exciting fixture, but it could give us a good indication of where both teams are as we edge closer towards the New Year. Milan, for all the injury problems that are plaguing the club, are doing very well to keep up with the Champions League places. They are just one point off Lazio, who occupy fourth place, and only need a point in their final Europa League group stage game away at Olympiacos to seal a place in the knockout rounds, it could be much worse for the Rossoneri. The Milanese giants are without a win in two Serie A rounds, losing to Juventus before the last international break and drawing at Lazio, but a strong victory could be the medicine to cure an aching Milan side. Tiemoue Bakayoko needs a fitness test after limping off during Thursday’s 5-2 Europa League win over Dudelange with an ankle knock, but the usual list of absentees remains with Alessio Romagnoli, Mateo Musacchio, Mattia Caldara, Giacomo Bonaventura and Lucas Biglia.

As for Parma, this will be a good test to see whether their positive start to the season is here to stay, or if they are just riding the waves at the moment, soon to fade away. Back-to-back 2-1 victories against Torino and Sassuolo have propelled Parma to sixth place in Serie A, just two points off their opponents Milan in the standings and one point ahead of the chasing duo Roma and Sassuolo in the final Europa League spot.

Their inconsistency has been an issue, even if they find themselves picking up good wins in spurts from time to time, but if they were to make it three wins out of three since last dropping points in a disappointing 0-0 at home to Frosinone at the beginning of November, and perhaps capitalising on weary Milan legs following their midweek exploits, that would put them in a very good position in terms of European places. This is arguably their toughest fixture until the winter break, that is until they face Roma at the end of December. A win at San Siro would not only bring more pressure on Milan and their Coach Gennaro Gattuso, but it would give Parma an incredible amount of confidence to carry on their start to the season. After all, the Ducali have already caused an upset at San Siro by beating Inter and would love to make it a Stadio Meazza double. Antonio Di Gaudio and Massimo Gobbi are still out, so it should again be Gervinho and Luca Siligardi supporting Roberto Inglese. Leo Stulac is expected to return from the start in midfield. Gervinho will be eager to make his mark, seeing as he has never scored at San Siro in six games here.

Milan have an absurdly strong home record against Parma in Serie A. In 24 games, the hosts have won 15 times, with Parma only picking up three wins.

Frosinone vs Cagliari

Stadio Benito Stirpe, Frosinone

Sunday, 02-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Marco Serra

Frosinone will be confident of getting right back on track after the defeat to Inter, but Cagliari are woefully short on confidence.

Although there are eight points dividing the two teams in the Serie A table, it remains a relegation dogfight, because the momentum is very different. The Canarini struggled badly at the start and kept faith with Coach Moreno Longo, which paid off during a four-round unbeaten run, which included a surprise 3-0 victory away to SPAL. That streak was halted by Inter at San Siro, but there’s no shame in that, and they’ll be fired up to resume the positive wave.

Cagliari, on the other hand, lost 3-1 to Juventus and were then fortunate to scrape draws against SPAL and Torino. Losing Lucas Castro for five to six months with a torn ACL is a devastating blow, as the former Chievo man had brought them much of their creativity and guile. Leonardo Pavoletti’s injury struggles are another massive problem, so if he doesn’t recover in time, Alberto Cerri should partner Joao Pedro with Artur Ionita trying to get to grips with Castro’s trequartista role. Simone Padoin and Paolo Faragò are also in doubt for this weekend.

Frosinone have numerous injury concerns to deal with, but most of them are long-term and already familiar, such as Luca Paganini and Federico Dionisi out for a couple of months with ACL issues. Emil Hallfredsson needs a fitness test, but Andrea Pinamonti seems to have surpassed Camillo Ciano in the pecking order to partner Daniel Ciofani.

Cagliari have lost their last three Serie A games against newly-promoted sides, failing to score in any of them.

Sassuolo vs Udinese

MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia

Sunday, 02-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Marco Guida

Udinese aim to record back-to-back wins for the first time this season as they travel to Sassuolo on Sunday. The Neroverdi endured a 2-1 defeat last weekend away to Parma and have only won one game in their last seven. Despite this, they sit in a healthy eighth place, level on points with Roma, and just four points from fourth spot. Interestingly, the Giallorossi battle Inter this week, so one would think the injury-depleted Roma should drop points and give Sassuolo the opportunity to rise up the table. Roberto De Zerbi will be demanding a solid performance from his side in this match, however will be without a number of players. Top scorer Kevin-Prince Boateng, Claud Adjapong and Jeremie Boga are all sidelined due to injury, therefore De Zerbi is expected to go with the midfield duo of Francesco Magnanelli and Alfred Duncan.

Meanwhile, Udinese are brimming with confidence. Just last week, Rodrigo De Paul struck as the Bianconeri downed Roma 1-0 in Davide Nicola’s first match on the Udinese bench. They had been winless in their seven matches prior to that and looked to be early relegation candidates, however Nicola will be hoping that his side turn over a new leaf under his tenure. Despite last week’s phenomenal win, they sit just one point adrift of the drop zone, therefore three points this weekend will be paramount. Before the winter break and following this match, they face Atalanta, Inter, Frosinone, SPAL and Cagliari, so there is a growing importance of this weekend’s fixture to give Udinese a run of momentum leading in. Emmanuel Badu is absent for Udinese along with Lukasz Teodorczyk, Svante Ingelsson and Brazilian centre-back Samir, as the quartet battle injuries.

Last season’s victory in this fixture was Udinese’s only win against Sassuolo in their past eight meetings.

Torino vs Genoa

Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Torino

Sunday, 02-12-2018 @05:00 pm

Referee: Maurizio Mariani

Walter Mazzarri returns to the bench after his health scare, as Torino take on a Genoa side showing signs of their own recovery. The tactician missed Monday’s trip to Cagliari and spent the last week undergoing tests, but medics have given him the all-clear to resume work. Toro are one of those teams that have steadied their season in recent weeks and are looking forward to kick on and climb up the table. In their first six games, Torino only won one, a slim 1-0 victory over SPAL, whilst drawing three and losing two. In fairness to Il Toro, those six games included trips to Atalanta and Inter as well as hosting Roma and Napoli. Through their last seven games, they’ve won three, drawn three and lost only one.

Their opponents in Week 14 continue to be a very curious case in Italy. Whilst they’re in 14th place, Genoa still do have the top scorer in Serie A, even though Krzysztof Piatek’s scoring form has cooled down in recent weeks. You might think that having the top scorer in the division, over the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mauro Icardi, would lead to at least a Europa League place. However, when you have the third leakiest defence In the league, conceding an eye-watering 27 goals in 13 games, you’re going to struggle to even break the top half of the table.

Mazzarri’s side boast the fifth worst home record in Serie A with just seven points from six games. Some relief for Torino is that Genoa’s away record is just as bad, with four points from six away games. However, one decider could be Torino’s far better defensive record as well as the firepower of Andrea Belotti.

In terms of team news, Daniele Baselli should make the XI despite a fitness scare. However, Spaniard Alex Berenguer and Italian striker Simone Zaza are expected to only make the bench, where Ola Aina returns after a lay-off. For Genoa, Argentine defender Nicolas Spolli is out due to an injury. Daniel Bessa is expected to start again, as Sandro is not 100 per cent fit yet.

Genoa have won only one of their last 35 Serie A trips to Torino, 3-2 in May 2009, interrupting 12 draws and 22 defeats.

Chievo vs Lazio

Stadio Marx’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona

Sunday, 02-12-2018 @08:00 pm

Referee: Fabio Maresca

Chievo started strong under third Coach of the campaign Mimmo Di Carlo and eye another upset against stuttering Lazio. The season has yet to hit its midway point, but Chievo are already on to their third tactician in what has been nothing short of a tumultuous and difficult campaign for the Flying Donkeys – who, frankly, have been hardly flying this term. Hit with a three-point deduction due to financial irregularities, Chievo were fortunate not to be punished more severely with the initial 15 point deduction which certainly would have spelled the end of their stay in the top flight. However, even three points have proved to be just as burdensome, for the Bentegodi have spent much of this campaign struggling even to achieve a positive points total. It took them until Week 13 to hit one point thanks to recording a draw against Napoli under new Coach Di Carlo. It was not a pretty affair by any means, as the game finished as a drab scoreless stalemate, but it will feel like a victory for Chievo. Expect them to put in the same stubborn defensive showing once again, with everyone behind the ball when needed when Lazio come to town. After all, playing pretty football is not of the highest order when one’s side is struggling for points and its position in the top flight is in serious jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Simone Inzaghi will expect a reaction from his team after Lazio surprisingly stumbled to a 2-0 defeat to Apollon Limassol in the Europa League on Thursday. Although the Biancocelesti sit in fourth spot following their 1-1 draw with Milan last weekend, they needed a late goal to salvage a point at the Stadio Olimpico in a game they could ill-afford to lose following a frustrating stalemate against Sassuolo in their last match before the international hiatus. Given they are now taking on the team with the worst record in the top flight, this could present the perfect opportunity for Lazio, who sit in fourth spot, to begin December on the right footing – especially with Milan and Parma also locking horns in a battle between fifth and sixth this weekend.

Lazio have won 13 of their last 15 Serie A trips to Chievo, save for two draws in 2014 and 2016, plus a shock 4-0 defeat in August 2015.

Roma vs Inter Milan

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 02-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi

Roma are dealing with a huge injury crisis as they try to get their Serie A season back on track against Luciano Spalletti’s Inter. The Giallorossi lost 2-0 against Real Madrid at home on Tuesday, but CSKA Moscow’s defeat against Viktoria Plzen cemented Roma’s place in the next stage of the Champions League. However, Eusebio Di Francesco should be disappointed at the manner his side lost against Los Blancos, as his men could’ve even won the game if they were more clinical in front of goal. Cengiz Under missed a sitter in the dying minutes of the first half and that badly affected the confidence of the whole team. It would be interesting to see how the Turkish international will react, as he is expected to start on the right wing against Inter on Sundaydue to the lack of alternatives. Edin Dzeko, Stephan El Shaarawy, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Daniele De Rossi are certainly out, with Javier Pastore and Diego Perotti at best managing a spot on the bench. Despite Dzeko’s unimpressive domestic form this term, one of the big issues for Roma has been Patrik Schick’s inability to lead the line by himself in the absence of the big Bosnian. The Czech forward will start up top once again with youngsters Justin Kluivert and Nicolo Zaniolo partnering Under in the trio behind him. De Rossi’s injury means that Bryan Cristante will also keep his place alongside Stephan Nzonzi, which means that the World Cup winner would have to carry the burden of anchoring Roma’s shaky defence. The Giallorossi have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five Serie A games and this is surely something that Inter will look to exploit.

The Nerazzurri suffered a 1-0 defeat against Tottenham on Wednesday and this might prove costly, as Inter need to get a result against PSV and hope that Barcelona beat Mauricio Pochettino’s men at Camp Nou. Radja Nainggolan’s fitness issues continue to harm his performances since the Belgian switched Roma with Inter in the summer. The 30-year-old was withdrawn before halftime against Tottenham and will most likely be rested against his former team. Joao Mario is expected to take his place behind Mauro Icardi, with another revived player Roberto Gagliardini, as both have been very impressive in recent weeks. Inter are currently third with a seven-point advantage over Roma, so the Nerazzurri’s main priority would be to avoid defeat against a tough opponent away from home. However, la Beneamata had a similar task against Tottenham and their conservative approach cost them the game eventually, so it willbe interesting to see if Spalletti changes his approach.

Roma currently sit in seventh place, just outside of the Europa League zone, and considering the Giallorossi’s poor results in recent weeks, the pressure ison them. Di Francesco’sposition would get even hotter if Roma fail to win against Inter, so the hosts will try to dominate the game from the start. However, the physicality of the Nerazzurri makes them a really tough nut to crack and considering Roma’s wastefulness in front of goal, it seems unlikely that the hosts will manage to score and avoid conceding at the same time.

Roma have a long list of key players missing, as Dzeko, El Shaarawy, Pellegrini, Pastore, De Rossi and Perotti are all injured. On the other hand, besides Nainggolan, who is expected to get some rest, Inter will be without Sime Vrsaljko and Dalbert, who are also recovering.

It took until last season for Mauro Icardi to score his first goal at the Stadio Olimpico, despite previously scoring against the Giallorossi for both Roma and Sampdoria.

Atalanta vs Napoli

Stadio Atleti Azzuri d’Italia, Bergamo

Monday, 03-12-2018 @10:30 pm

Referee: Piero Giacomelli

This should be absolutely fascinating, as giant-killers Atalanta and Scudetto contenders Napoli both need to shake off surprise results. Last week, Atalanta’s four-game win streak came to an end when they blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Empoli. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men conceded a last-gasp goal and dropped out of the top six. Josip Ilicic’s tantrum and red card proved costly, as not only did he leave his team down to 10 men, he’ll sit out a two-match ban. It’s likely he’ll be replaced by Emiliano Rigoni. Bouncing back from this hard loss won’t be easy for the Orobici, as it is Napoli who stand in their way. During their victorious run, Atalanta were one of the best sides in the country, scoring 14 goals, conceding three, and capping off their resurgence with a 4-1 win over Inter. This excellent form was a turnaround for Papu Gomez and co, who were only one spot off of the relegation zone following Week 8. In their match with Empoli, Atalanta held a 2-0 lead up until right before the half, which is when Italian youngster Antonino La Gumina kicked off what would be a crazy comeback for his side. An own goal from Andrea Masiello brought things level at the Stadio Carlo Castellani, and soon after that, Ilicic received a red card for dissent following his yellow card for a poor challenge. Empoli took advantage and completed their comeback in the game’s dying moments.

Napoli come into this game looking to ensure they don’t fall any further behind league leaders Juventus. The Partenopei’s latest Champions League win against Red Star Belgrade will do them some good going into this match, since it won’t be a 0-0 draw against rock bottom Chievo that is on their mind. Carlo Ancelotti’s side just couldn’t find the back of the net against Chievo. Of the 21 shots on goal they had, not a single one was put past Stefano Sorrentino. The result was yet another setback in their fight for the Scudetto and it left a bad taste in the mouths of many tifosi. The 3-1 victory over Red Star should serve as a great confidence boost to many of the players, a much-needed boost at that, since they will have to gain ground against a side that has caused them problems in the past.

The Partenopei have the most to lose out of these two teams, so expect to see them come out strong and ready to win after a disappointing result last time out.

Napoli have won two of their last three Serie A trips to Bergamo, having managed just two in the previous 15 attempts.

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