Roma, Milan renew old rivalry as Serie A enters Match-Day 22

Empoli vs Chievo

Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli 

Saturday, 02-02-2019 @5pm

Chievo are busy revamping their squad, but a victory against fourth-from-bottom Empoli is essential to give themselves hope of safety. The Flying Donkeys were distraught after the 4-3 defeat to Fiorentina, as they put up a huge fight only to see a goal harshly disallowed, a penalty not given and Sergio Pellissier’s spot-kick saved. However, Frosinone’s 4-0 win over Bologna with defeats for Empoli and Udinese helped keep the elusive safety zone within sight. Nobody could accuse Chievo of not trying to recover from the three-point penalty for financial irregularities and dire start to the season, currently on their third Coach Domenico Di Carlo. During the January transfer window, they brought in the likes of Assane Diousse from Saint-Etienne, Brighton winger Ezequiel Schelotto and even Brazilian talent Lucas Piazon on loan from Chelsea. Fabrizio Cacciatore, Joel Obi and Nenad Tomovic are on the treatment table, but Sofiane Kiyine and Mattia Bani return from suspension.

Empoli are struggling after an initial boost when Beppe Iachini took over from Aurelio Andreazzoli. They’ve scraped just one point from the last six rounds and were beaten soundly 3-1 at home by Genoa on Monday evening. Antonino La Gumina, Leonardo Capezzi and Domenico Maietta are all expected to miss out, while Miha Zajc is on the verge of a transfer to Fenerbahce. If he does go before the weekend, then Salih Ucan could step in to support Ciccio Caputo.

Only two teams who had a single win after 21 Serie A rounds managed to avoid relegation. They were Varese in 1970-71 and Bologna in 1978-79.

Napoli vs Sampdoria

Stadio San Paolo, Naples

Saturday, 02-02-2019 @8pm

Napoli need to resolve their goals crisis, but have to focus the defence too, as Sampdoria hero Fabio Quagliarella tries to set a new Serie A record. It is sure to be an emotional evening at the Stadio San Paolo, as Quagliarella returns to face his hometown club fresh from equalling Gabriel Batistuta’s 1994 record of 11 consecutive Serie A games on target. If he finds the net here, it will set a new all-time tally in the history books. Not bad for someone who celebrated his 36th birthday on Thursday.

Napoli could do with Quagliarella’s form right now, as they failed to score in their last two competitive matches, both against Milan. There was a dire 0-0 draw in Serie A, then on Tuesday the 2-0 Coppa Italia quarter-final defeat decided by a Krzysztof Piatek brace. Despite throwing Dries Mertens, Arkadiusz Milik, Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon on together, the Partenopei can’t seem to create many chances. Fabian Ruiz is suspended for this match, so Marek Hamsik should get his first start of 2019, while Allan tries to focus after the PSG distraction. Milik could be bumped to the bench in order to reunite the ‘little guys’ Mertens and Insigne upfront, with Jose Callejon and Piotr Zielinski out wide.

Sampdoria must do without banned Denis Praet, plus injured Gianluca Caprari, so Gregoire Defrel and ex-Napoli star Manolo Gabbiadini are fighting for the role of support to Quagliarella. Gaston Ramirez is available again after suspension and is in a battle with Riccardo Saponara for the trequartista spot.

Sampdoria beat Napoli 3-0 at Marassi, but haven’t won home and away in a single season since 1997-98. The Blucerchiati managed just two draws and eight defeats at the San Paolo in Serie A since a 2-0 result in April 1998.

Juventus vs Parma

Allianz Stadium, Torino

Saturday, 02-02-2019 @10:30pm

Juventus suffered their first defeat to an Italian club this season and host a Parma side hoping to cause an upset of their own. The Bianconeri got a wake-up call on Wednesday night with a 3-0 hammering at the hands of Atalanta, knocking them out of the Coppa Italia quarter-final and ending their four-year reign in the tournament. No other team from the Peninsula has been able to defeat Max Allegri’s powerhouse, but the warning signs had been there with scraped victories over Lazio and Sampdoria. The question now is do Juve learn and adjust or have Atalanta shown others how to unpick the Old Lady’s lock? There are more problems to deal with, as the defence is decimated going into this weekend. Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli are out for at least a month, with Giorgio Chiellini limping off in Bergamo thanks to yet another calf injury. Juan Cuadrado remains on the treatment table, but Mario Mandzukic should be back for at least a spot on the bench.

Parma need to get back on track too, having been caught in a moment of complacency when leading 2-0 against SPAL only to lose 3-2. Gervinho and Roberto Inglese are the kind of player who caused Juve the most problems so far this season, namely a rapid counter-attack specialist and big centre-forward strong in the air. It’s a special game for Bruno Alves, because Juventus attempted to sign the 37-year-old on transfer deadline day to fill in for the injured absentees, but Parma rejected the idea.

Cristiano Ronaldo has failed to find the net in seven of his last 11 Serie A home fixtures, while Paulo Dybala hasn’t scored in 25 top flight attempts on target.

SPAL vs Torino

Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara

Sunday, 03-02-2019 @2:30pm

Both SPAL and Torino are brimming with confidence after unexpected victories, so want to build that momentum.

There are 9 points separating the two, as while the hosts are looking to increase the gap from the relegation zone, Toro are clawing their way into a European position. With two wins in their last five games, including a victory over third-placed Inter, Torino are looking for the opportunity to gather back-to-back wins for what would only be the second time this season, the first coming against Chievo and Frosinone in Week 7 and 8. Leonardo Semplici’s men are also coming off a hard-fought victory at the Tardini against Parma, going from 2-0 down to a surprise 3-2 triumph at the Tardini. It ended an 11-round winless streak, but SPAL are still looking for their first home victory since September 17 against Atalanta. Like Toro, they have only managed two successive wins on one occasion, in the opening two rounds against Bologna and Parma.

SPAL are boosted by the return of centre-back Thiago Cionek from suspension, but top scorer Andrea Petagna is next on the naughty step. Torino also have midfielder Soualiho Meite available again following his two-match ban. This will be a gritty match and could go either way, but SPAL have only managed two victories on home soil this year, while Toro have lost just one of their last 13 away fixtures.

The last time SPAL beat Torino in Serie A was in February 1963, followed by four draws and seven defeats.

Udinese vs Fiorentina

Darcia Arena, Udine

Sunday, 03-02-2019 @05:00pm

Fiorentina have found their form and confidence, so go into the Dacia Arena as favourites against struggling Udinese. Perhaps we shouldn’t be counting La Viola out of the Champions League qualification race just yet, as they are ultimately only five points adrift of fourth placed Milan.

Stefano Pioli’s men pulled off an incredible 7-1 victory against Roma in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, showcasing how good a side they can when they’re on form. The issue for them this season is that they haven’t had enough of those peaks. Inconsistent performances and bad days at the office have dampened some inspiring football this season. The return of Luis Muriel to what was the Stadio Friuli will be a stinging reminder to Udinese fans of when the club was challenging the higher ranks of the Serie A food chain. Alas, the club currently reside in 16th place, a mere four points above the drop zone and with just one win in their last six games.

You may be expecting Udinese to take the initiative on home turf. However, considering Nicola’s style of play and Udinese’s pitiful second worst attack in Serie A with 16 goals scored in 21 games, it seems unlikely. Before Fiorentina’s 3-0 loss at home to Juventus in early December, it’s easy to forget that they had the second-best defensive record in Serie A. Since that heavy defeat, they’ve conceded 11 goals. Whilst they’ve declined on the defensive side, it’s arguable but that they’ve upped the ante on the offensive side, with scorelines of 3-3, 4-3 and 7-1 in the past few weeks. With Colombian striker Muriel arriving in early January, it certainly seems to have had a knock-on effect for the rest of the attack.

You can expect the game to play out with Fiorentina dominating possession through Jordan Veretout and Edimilson Fernandes. A fearsome threesome of Federico Chiesa, Luis Muriel and Giovanni Simeone are likely to run an average Udinese defence ragged. Marco Benassi begins a two-match ban, so Gerson should step in to midfield.

In terms of team news, Udinese’s Argentine Ignacio Pussetto is likely to be relegated to the bench due to a fitness worry, but fellow countryman Rodrigo de Paul is expected to start.

Fiorentina have won each of their last four Serie A meetings with Udinese, home and away, conceding just one goal in October 2017.

Genoa vs Sassoulo

Stadio Communale Luigi Ferraris

Sunday, 03-02-2019 @05:00pm

Genoa and Sassuolo have lost star players in the January transfer window, but are adjusting very well. If the Rossoblu were missing Krzysztof Piatek last weekend, they certainly weren’t showing it, running out 3-1 winners away to Empoli. It was a much-needed victory after picking up only one point in their previous three games. At home, in front of their own fans, Genoa will be feeling confident of claiming another success. That confidence will be buoyed by the debut goal of Antonio Sanabria, the man brought in to replace Piatek. Former Roma and Betis striker Sanabria could not have asked for a better start, as he scored with his first touch of the ball in a Genoa jersey.

Sassuolo come into this game in similar circumstances. An impressive 3-0 victory against Cagliari last weekend saw them end a poor three-match run in which the Neroverdi claimed just one solitary but impressive point against Inter. Roberto De Zerbi’s men would seem to have more to play for this season, sitting only four points off the Europa League places, in what is shaping up to be an exciting race for continental football. It’s a race that stretches all the way down to Parma in 12th place, still only five points off the last Europa League berth.

Genoa, however, find themselves in a comfortable middle ground, with too many points dropped to mount a surprise top six assault, but enough gained to be a way off the drop zone. Don’t expect to see any complacency though, with lots of points still up for grabs, the Rossoblu still have work to do if they are to ensure their safety in the top flight of Italian football. Genoa are missing Oscar Hiljemark, Andrea Favilli, new buy Stefano Sturaro and suspended Esteban Rolon, but Sanabria should get his first start alongside Christian Kouame.

Genoa failed to find the net in each of their last two Serie A home games, but they haven’t fired blanks for three in a row since January 2011.

Inter Milan vs Bologna

Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan

Sunday, 03-02-2019 @8:00pm

While Sinisa Mihajlovic makes his debut on the Bologna bench, Inter give serious consideration to sacking Luciano Spalletti. The Nerazzurri sit in third place, 19 points off leaders Juventus and eight adrift of Napoli. With several high-profile signings this summer, they were expected to compete for the Scudetto along with qualifying from their Champions League group, but failed in both objectives. Reports are heating up that this is Spalletti’s last season in charge if he fails to deliver a trophy and Antonio Conte was spotted outside the Inter HQ on Thursday, prompting rumours of an even earlier decision. The year has not started on the right foot, with a draw against Sassuolo, defeat to Torino and Coppa Italia quarter-final exit to Lazio on penalties. Sime Vrsaljko’s injury forced Inter to sign Cedric Soares from Southampton on a loan with option to buy and Ivan Perisic is unlikely to feature this weekend, as he is still trying to get his head back in the game after the failed bid to join Arsenal. Matteo Politano sits out a two-match ban for insulting the referee, with Borja Valero, Keita Balde Diao and Vrsaljko on the treatment table. Radja Nainggolan might need help after he was visibly distraught at missing the crucial penalty in Wednesday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final shoot-out with Lazio.

Bologna’s season has been disastrous with a recent 4-0 loss at home to relegation rivals Frosinone proving the final straw. Coach Pippo Inzaghi was fired and replaced by Mihajlovic, who returned to the Stadio Dall’Ara 10 years after his first stint on this bench. He has been without a job since the beginning of the season, sacked just nine days into his Sporting Lisbon adventure. All Mihajlovic’s teams play hard, but will it be enough to deliver results and save Bologna’s disheartening season? He’ll have to do it without Filip Helander and Federico Mattiello, who are both suspended, with Blerim Dzemaili injured. The Rossoblu have been very active in the last days of the transfer window and could start former Torino defender Lyanco with Roberto Soriano. Mattia Destro battles Federico Santander for the centre-forward role, but it’s a special game for ex-Inter hero Rodrigo Palacio.

This will be a tough game for two clubs who are fighting for different objectives. Both will be looking for a significant win that could help turn their season around and give them the momentum needed to finish the campaign on a high note.

Bologna have not beaten Inter in Serie A since their 1-0 result at San Siro in March 2013, followed by four draws and five defeats.

Roma vs Milan

Stadio Olimpico, Roma

Sunday, 03-03-2019 @10:30pm

It’s a showdown for the final Champions League spot, as fourth-placed Milan face a wounded Roma, who sit just a point behind them.

These sides have had contrasting weeks, with the Rossoneri securing their place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Napoli, thanks to a debut brace form Krzysztof Piatek, whilst the Lupi were embarrassed at the hands of Fiorentina.

Not only did the Giallorossi lose 7-1 in Florence, but saw their star striker Edin Dzeko sent off for appearing to spit at the referee. The Coppa Italia is a separate tournament, so any ban he receives for that behaviour will only apply to next season’s cup fixtures.

However, Serie A bans do apply for Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi, leaving Roma without their entire first choice midfield. Daniele De Rossi made his comeback off the bench midweek, but has been out for well over a month, so cannot be expected to carry the team on his back. Lorenzo Pellegrini is likely to be pushed into a deeper role, while Cengiz Under, Juan Jesus and Diego Perotti are injured.

At this point, Alessandro Florenzi could be moved into the supporting trident with Nicolò Zaniolo and ex-Milan man Stephan El Shaarawy.

Gennaro Gattuso couldn’t have been happier with his Coppa Italia quarter-final, as Piatek made the ideal full debut by bagging an early brace to beat Napoli on Tuesday night. The fans will be hoping the Pole is what Milan have been craving for a few years now, a genuine goal scorer.

They currently sit in that final Champions League spot, but only a point ahead of this Sunday’s opposition, and with the likes of Sampdoria, Atalanta and Lazio coming up fast behind them, Milan and Roma need to be wary.

Milan are undefeated in their last five away games in the league and have conceded just one goal, away to Lazio, in that period. They have the fourth best defence in Serie A and although Roma are the third best side in terms of goals scored, their confidence is shot. The tension was already palpable last week when throwing away a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Atalanta, but a 7-1 humiliation in Florence put Di Francesco on the chopping block.

It’s a very intriguing game in prospect and one that Roma cannot afford to lose. Milan could open up a four-point lead and given the last seven days, you would not bet against the Rossoneri in Rome on Sunday.

Frosinone vs Lazio

Stadio Benito Stirpe, Frosinone

Monday, 04-02-2019 @9:00pm

Marco Baroni’s Frosinone host Lazio at the Benito Stirpe on Monday evening with both local rivals coming off exciting victories. The hosts are currently sitting in 19th place, four points from safety, but fresh from their second win of the season. Frosinone surprised a few last weekend after their 4-0 thrashing of 10-man Bologna at the Stadio Dall’Ara, thanks in part to Camillo Ciano’s brace. Despite that result which will only boost confidence, Frosinone have failed to win their last 10 home matches.

Meanwhile, Lazio will see this game as the perfect opportunity of returning to winning ways following back to back defeats in the league. The performances were very impressive and if they can just keep their heads in front of goal to convert a few more of the many chances, they could become very difficult to beat. A Coppa Italia quarter final triumph on Thursday evening against Inter will have given them a boost, although playing 120 dramatic minutes plus a penalty shoot-out takes a lot out of a thin squad. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is suspended with Luiz Felipe, Patric and Jordan Lukaku injured, so gaps may appear through the middle.

The home side have six players currently sidelined through injury with Federico Dionisi, Lorenzo Ariaudo, Francesco Zampano, Francesco Bardi, Nicolò Brighenti and Stefan Simic all likely to miss out. Francesco Cassata is also suspended, but Daniel Ciofani is battling Andrea Pinamonti for the forward role. A win for the home side wouldn’t see them escape the drop zone, but they could leapfrog Bologna and move into 18th.

Frosinone have faced Lazio three times in the top flight, but are yet to score a single goal.

Cagliari vs Atalanta

Sardegna Arena, Cagliari

Monday, 28-01-2018 @11:00pm

High-flying Atalanta visit Cagliari at the Sardegna Arena after knocking out Juventus from the Coppa Italia with a 3-0 drubbing. The Orobici are in impressive form in the last six weeks, going unbeaten in all competitions since their defeat in December at the hands of Genoa. From that point, they managed to score 21 goals in Serie A and Coppa combined and will definitely be eager to grab three points from Rolando Maran’s side. Despite stepping into this match as underdogs, Cagliari are on par with the Bergamaschi in terms of points kept home, with 15 points for each and historically they tend to perform well against Atalanta, winning four of their last five clashes in Serie A.

The Sardinians’ main objective remains safety and they have been very active in this sense in the January transfer window, bringing Cyril Thereau from Fiorentina, but also Luca Pellegrini from Roma and Fabrizio Cacciatore from Chievo. We could well see Luca Pellegrini in the starting XI on Monday evening.

Cagliari’s Nicolò Barella is the only player suspended for this match, while the Sardinians also miss Ragnar Klavan, Lucas Castro and Alberto Cerri. Josip Ilicic limped off during the Coppa Italia triumph over Juventus, but should be fit to start.

Cagliari have won four of their last five meetings with Atalanta in Serie A, keeping three clean sheets. However, the Orobici knocked them out of the Coppa Italia with a 2-0 win here in January.

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