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Football

Juventus, AC Milan renew rivalry as Serie A returns

Parma vs Torino

Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma

Saturday, 06-06-2019 @4pm

Torino continue their push for European football and have to fancy their chances against a Parma side in crisis.

The Ducali have been going through a miserable run, which was compounded midweek by a controversial stoppage-time VAR decision for Frosinone to convert a penalty at the 103rd minute, meaning another heart-breaking defeat for the Gialloblu.

To make matters worse, the Ducali are still without frontmen Gervinho, Jonathan Biabiany and Roberto Inglese for this fixture, so could even resort to using left-back Federico Dimarco in a more advanced role as part of the trident attack.

Bruno Alves’ continuing absence is another huge blow to a defence that has been leaking goals most of the season. That trend has intensified, as with 27 goals, they conceded more than any other Serie A side in 2019.

Sporting Director Daniele Faggiano has called for Parma to pick up as many points as possible from their remaining fixtures and will be hoping for at least one at home to an in-form Toro.

The Granata will be high on confidence after edging out Sampdoria in their Europa league showdown and will see Parma’s makeshift side and continuing woes as an ideal opportunity to pick up maximum points, which could guide them even further towards what would be a remarkable top four finish.

Walter Mazzarri will be without suspended midfielder Sasa Lukic and injured forward Iago Falque, so Alex Berenguer battles Simone Zaza for the right to start up top alongside midweek goal hero Andrea Belotti.

In the 2013-14 season star man Alessio Cerci missed a last-minute penalty for Torino against Fiorentina, allowing Parma to snatch the final Europa League spot. However, the Ducali’s financial malaise saw them expelled, permitting Toro to return to UEFA competition after a 20-year hiatus.

Juventus vs AC Milan

Allianz Stadium, Torino

Saturday, 06-06-2019 @7pm

Juventus could theoretically win the Scudetto this weekend, but injury-hit Milan need a result to stay in the Champions League places.

If the Bianconeri win and Napoli lose at home to Genoa, The Old Lady will be officially crowned champions of Italy for a record eighth time in a row.

Juve’s last win in Cagliari was surrounded by controversy. Golden boy Moise Kean was racially abused after scoring a late goal and celebrating in front of the opposing fans, prompting teammates and players from all around the world to his defence.

Their injury crisis is starting to calm down, as Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Leonardo Spinazzola, Douglas Costa and Sami Khedira are back in training, although it remains to be seen who will be risked. Cristiano Ronaldo is still on the sidelines after that muscular injury on international duty and targeting a comeback against Ajax.

This has been a bad week for Milan, mixing poor results and injuries. Atalanta’s surge means the gap between fourth and fifth place is now just one point, so the fight for a Champions League spot looks as if it’ll go down to the wire.

The Rossoneri only managed to get one point out of their last three games and with direct confrontations against teams vying for European places coming up, they need to get back on track. Giacomo Bonaventura is out for the season. Gianluigi Donnarumma and Lucas Paqueta are out of action after picking up injuries in the 1-1 draw with Udinese, while Andrea Conti and Franck Kessie are also doubtful.

Suso was rested midweek, but should return in a new trequartista role after the tactical experiment of using Paqueta behind Krzysztof Piatek and Patrick Cutrone.

Both teams have lot at stake in this game. Juventus are trying to secure the Scudetto so they can turn their focus on the only trophy they’ve been missing for the last few years. Milan know Champions League qualification is absolutely decisive for the future of the club, Coach and many players.

The Rossoneri have a terrible recent record in this fixture, losing their last seven Serie A trips to Turin on the bounce. Their last victory here in the league was 1-0 in March 2011, decided by a goal from none other than Rino Gattuso, when the Milan Coach was Max Allegri.

Will Juventus’ Serie A dominance continue or Milan’s resolve to become relevant again come out on top?

While managing Milan, Gennaro Gattuso has lost all four competitive meetings with Juventus, scoring one goal and conceding 10. That breaks down to two Serie A games, one Coppa Italia final and one Italian Super Cup.

Sampdoria vs AS Roma

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Saturday, 06-06-2019 @9:30pm

A victory would put Sampdoria level with Roma on 48 points and almost certainly end Giallorossi hopes of a top four finish.

The Blucherciati certainly need that boost after a 2-1 defeat to Torino saw them slide down the standings, falling behind in the race for a Europa League berth. The Lupi, on the other hand, head into this clash at Marassi knowing time is running out to salvage what is left of their season. Claudio Ranieri’s men had to fight back twice against Fiorentina, to eventually salvage a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

Roma had perhaps their best performance of the season in the reverse fixture, thumping Sampdoria 4-1 on home turf, but a great deal has changed since then.

Both teams are capable of pulling off a professional and effective performance one week, but then faltering to lower order opposition the next. It is for that reason that makes this match up so intriguing, because we really don’t know what we will get from these sides.

Having said that, Sampdoria are the much more stable of the two, with a Coach that has quietly gone about his business identifying a style of play, that while can give up goals, can be highly entertaining at the same time, for example in their recent 5-3 away victory over Sassuolo.

Roma have gone from one crisis to another, from being humiliated 7-1 by Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia, to firing Eusebio Di Francesco, to the tension between President James Pallotta and recently departed sporting director Monchi. Ranieri has tried his best to steady the ship, but the Roman problems are much bigger that just a managerial change.

Given that only a win will suffice, expect both teams to go for the jugular and not hold back. Tinkerman Ranieri will be tweaking again, missing Davide Santon, Javier Pastore, Alessandro Florenzi and Stephan El Shaarawy, but should have Patrik Schick back against his old club. The former Sampdoria striker has never come close to the promise he showed at Marassi and it remains to be seen if he can work with Edin Dzeko.

After he was dropped against Fiorentina, Robin Olsen is again benched in favour of veteran Antonio Mirante.

Samp’s home form has dipped in recent times, with losses to Frosinone and Atalanta in the last couple of months. Bartosz Bereszynski is suspended, with Omar Colley in serious doubt after leaving the field against Torino with a badly bruised jaw. Gianluca Caprari, Albin Ekdal and Edgar Barreto are long-term absentees, but Riccardo Saponara and ex-Roma flop Gregoire Defrel should support Capocannoniere Fabio Quagliarella.

Roma have lost their last two away fixtures, but three defeats would be their worst Serie A run since January 2013.

Fiorentina vs Frosinone

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence

Sunday, 07-04-2019 @1:30pm

This match feels more about morale than anything else, as Frosinone’s hopes of safety and Fiorentina’s Europa League chances are now slim.

Taking the lead twice against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, Fiorentina will rue yet another draw. Positioned dead centre in the league table, they have won eight matches, lost seven and drawn 15 (the most in Serie A) – a season that screams of mediocrity. The current form is slightly embarrassing for La Viola, as we must track back to February 17 to find the last victory, which came against SPAL.

Stefano Pioli’s men must show some pride and hunger to reward the home fans in these final stages of the season. Sevilla loanee Luis Muriel has been a welcome addition to the frontline, as he has bagged six goals in 11 Serie A outings since joining in January.

Frosinone come off a much-welcome last-minute 3-2 thriller against Parma – the very first home victory of the season. Trailing eight points behind Empoli with only eight matches left, and coming up against the likes of Inter, Napoli, Milan and a battling Udinese, Frosinone might as well relieve themselves of any pressure and just play for a nicer looking record to take with them back down to Serie B.

Marco Baroni’s men will hope to ride the small high gained from the victory against Parma. Although Fiorentina are in a slump, they are by far the stronger team of the two and should come out the winners. Interestingly, Baroni made his professional playing debut for Fiorentina in the 1981-82 season.

Federico Chiesa should be fit for a return to the starting XI, but Marko Pjaca and Edimilson Fernandes are injured. The visitors do without Federico Viviani and Mirko Gori yet again.

Fiorentina have drawn their last five Serie A home games, but a sixth straight stalemate would be an all-time club record.

The two teams are among the hard hitters in Serie A. Fiorentina have picked up 75 yellow cards and four red. Frosinone are none shyer with 81 yellows and two red cards.

Udinese vs Empoli

Dacia Arena, Udine

Sunday, 07-04-2019 @4pm

After an unexpected win against Napoli, Empoli will be looking to grab some more points in their relegation battle against Udinese.

Only one point separates the two teams, and with Serie A nearing an end, desperation to secure safety in Italy’s top flight can also be seen through the recent change of Coach for both sides.

These changes had an important impact, with Igor Tudor’s return at the helm of Udinese seeing them earn four points in their last two matches, one of them being an important draw at San Siro against Milan midweek.

Aurelio Andreazzoli’s reappointment saw him take revenge on Napoli, with the Tuscan Coach fired on his 65th birthday earlier this season after a 5-1 thrashing by the Partenopei.

Encounters between the two teams have often been tight, with nine wins for the Friulani, six for Empoli and eight draws in their previous 23 encounters in Italy’s top flight. With Serie A safety at stake, expect an interesting match at the Dacia Arena.

Tudor will be without Antonin Barak and Valon Behrami, their season already confirmed to be over, while Marco D’Alessandro and Bram Nuytinck are sidelined with light injuries.

Empoli will certainly be without Lorenzo Polvani, Antonino La Gumina and Jacob Rasmussen, while Levan Mchedlidze and Kevin Diks are still being evaluated.

Udinese are yet to beat a newly-promoted side this season, managing two points from four meetings. The only campaigns where they failed to defeat any new boys were 1989-90 and 1950-51.

Cagliari vs SPAL

Sardegna Arena, Cagliari

Sunday, 31-03-2019 @4pm

SPAL and Cagliari improved their status with big wins in recent weeks, but are not safe from relegation yet.

After back to back victories over Fiorentina and Chievo, the Sardinians fell to a 2-0 defeat to champions Juventus at the Sardegna Arena midweek. The Rossoblu will look to bounce back this weekend, when they host SPAL at the Sardegna Arena.

Rolando Maran’s men have won three of their last five home matches, scoring six and conceding same in the process. In the survival picture, this fixture is pretty significant for both clubs, who are within six points of the drop zone. Cagliari and SPAL occupy the 13th and 15th position respectively, with one point separating them.

SPAL are in tip top mood now, after their celebrated victory over Champions League contenders Lazio on Wednesday. That’s three wins on the bounce and a fourth would be a new club top flight record. The Biancazzurri are also confident in their ability to score on the road, as they’ve found the net seven times in their last six away matches.

However, the upturn in form coincided with the return of Manuel Lazzari from injury and the winger is now suspended for this game.

SPAL have never won a Serie A match in Sardinia, managing just one draw from four attempts and scoring one goal in May 1967.

Inter Milan vs Atalanta

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Sunay, 07-04-2019 @7pm

It’s third against fifth in a duel for Champions League football, but while Mauro Icardi is back for Inter, Atalanta lose Duvan Zapata.

The Orobici destroyed Bologna 4-1, with all four of their goals scored in the opening 15 minutes, to move within a point of fourth-placed Milan. An Atalanta victory at San Siro would blow the entire race for the top four wide open, closing the gap from Inter in third to just two points.

However, the situation has changed over the past three days. Icardi returned to the Inter squad with a bang for the first time since he was stripped of the captaincy and began a war of wills with the club on February 13. He made an immediate impact, earning and converting a penalty, getting Cristian Romero sent off and providing an assist to Ivan Perisic in the 4-0 triumph away to Genoa.

On the other hand, Atalanta are losing their Capocannoniere candidate, because Duvan Zapata received a yellow card for handball and is suspended. The Colombian is no easy figure to replace, combining power and pace with a remarkable work-rate. Gian Piero Gasperini therefore might not even try with pacey Musa Barrow, instead using Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic as interchangeable False 9 characters with support from Mario Pasalic. Rafael Toloi is still out injured in defence.

Inter miss Lautaro Martinez, Stefan de Vrij and of course Sime Vrsaljko, but Radja Nainggolan got his first start in several weeks against Genoa and should again complete the supporting trident with Perisic and Matteo Politano. Roberto Gagliardini could face his old club, having bagged a rare brace midweek.

Atalanta have lost their last four Serie A visits to Inter, scoring one goal and conceding 12.

Lazio vs Sassuolo

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 07-04-2019 @7pm

Lazio suffered a surprise setback with their late defeat to SPAL and need to get back on track, but Sassuolo seem to have found their way.

The Aquile still have a game in hand to be played against Udinese, which in itself is a different prospect to the fixture when it was originally planned in February. They sit in sixth place, on a par with Roma and Torino, four points adrift of Milan and the Champions League spots.

It had all been going so well with a victory away to Inter, but midweek a last-gasp Andrea Petagna penalty proved decisive to bring them back down to earth. That ended a run of 12 consecutive rounds on target for the Biancocelesti.

Sassuolo had been sliding badly down the standings, but the confident dismantling of Chievo was their first victory since January 26. Defender Mehdi Demiral bagged a brace of headers, but Khouma Babacar again faces competition for a starting spot from Filip Djuricic.

Lazio are likely to miss Stefan Radu again, with Felipe Caicedo the favourite rather than Joaquin Correa to support Ciro Immobile. Patric and Luiz Felipe are the two candidates to complete the defence with Bastos and former Sassuolo man Francesco Acerbi.

Sassuolo managed one point from their last five Serie A meetings with Lazio, scoring four goals and conceding 14. The Neroverdi kept one clean sheet in 11 top flight encounters with Lazio, in February 2016.

Napoli vs Genoa

Stadio San Paolo, Naples

Sunday, 07-04-2019 @9:30pm

Napoli and Genoa are both coming off disappointing defeats, with teams starting to breathe down their necks.

The Partenopei’s trip to Empoli seemed, on paper, an easy win. Despite that, Carlo Ancelotti’s side seemed uninspired throughout the entire match and were unable to establish any sort of control.

In addition to a lack of motivation, Napoli were hurt by uncharacteristically lacklustre performances from their key players. Kalidou Koulibaly, Jose Callejon and Arkadiusz Milik all struggled to find their footing during the match, with terrible decision making and simple errors. Credit goes to Empoli, though, as they put in an inspired performance to topple one of Serie A’s top clubs 2-1 and escape the bottom three.

The Partenopei’s opponent this weekend isn’t heading into the match on a good note either. Genoa fell victim to Inter, and a returning Mauro Icardi, in a 4-0 defeat at home. Roberto Gagliardini’s goal put the Rossoblu in a bad spot early on, but it was Cristian Romero’s red card which led to Icardi’s penalty right before the half that signaled the end for Cesare Prandelli’s side.

Simply put, Genoa were outplayed Wednesday. Stefano Sturaro and Christian Kouame were unable to get any momentum going for the home side, and it was Kouame’s miss on the former’s set-piece that could’ve shifted the momentum for the Grifone. Furthermore, Prandelli’s side failed to maintain any type of discipline at the back, opening them up to the likes of Ivan Perisic and Gagliardini.

These two sides have an interesting relationship, with the fan bases of both teams taking a liking to each other after their mutual return to Serie A in 2007 established a friendship between the two.

The last time Napoli and Genoa met at Marassi, torrential rain almost ended the match before the visitors snuck away with a 2-1 win. As well as better weather, Genoa will hope that the Napoli players continue to have their minds elsewhere, most notably their Europa League tie with Arsenal, so as to lead to another upset.

However, it is unlikely Ancelotti will allow his team to put in a performance similar to the one against Empoli in front of the San Paolo faithful. Lorenzo Insigne, Raul Albiol, Amadou Diawara, Faouzi Ghoulam, Vlad Chiriches and David Ospina are still on the treatment table.

Romero and Ervin Zukanovic are suspended for Genoa, so returning Domenico Criscito could step into central defence rather than his usual left-back role.

Genoa have not beaten Napoli in Serie A since a 3-2 Marassi result in January 2012, managing three draws and 10 defeats, home and away. That includes four straight defeats. Their last win at the San Paolo was 1-0 in February 2009.

Bologna vs Chievo Verona

Stadio Renato dell’Ara, Bologna

Monday, 08-04-2019 @9:30pm

Bologna slipped back into the bottom three and need a victory against doomed Chievo to stop momentum dissipating.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men had won three on the bounce to climb out of the drop zone, but a crushing 4-1 defeat to Atalanta (where they were 4-0 down within 15 minutes) and Empoli’s victory over Napoli saw the tables turned again.

Chievo, on the other hand, are staring relegation directly in the face. They have just one win all season, in late December when they beat fellow strugglers Frosinone 1-0 at home. Since that day, Chievo have picked up just three points, drawing with Empoli, Genoa and Atalanta.

It seems as though Mihajlovic has targeted the tie with Chievo as a must-win. In Thursday’s match with Atalanta, the Bologna chief fielded largely reserves, far from the starting XI that rattled off three wins out of three. Expect to see the likes of Roberto Soriano, Rodrigo Palacio, Danilo and Blerim Dzemaili all make their returns to the pitch at the Dall’Ara.

Federico Santander will also be vying for a spot from kick-off, as he comes back from several weeks out with a shoulder injury. Mattia Destro is out due to an injury he sustained while celebrating his goal against Sassuolo last week, joined by Federico Mattiello on the treatment table.

Chievo are currently sitting on 11 points, and though not mathematically relegated, will surely be getting themselves ready for life in Serie B next season. Coach Domenico Di Carlo has a full squad available to him, with Fabio Depaoli returning from suspension. Depaoli may be the only bright spot for Chievo this season, with the young right-back looking like he has a very promising future.

Di Carlo is also in a position to roll the dice on another upcoming youngster, Emanuel Vignato. The Italo-Brazilian came off the bench as a substitute against Sassuolo and looks like he could make an impact.

If Bologna win this, it’ll be the first time they’ve managed three consecutive Serie A home victories since September 2016.

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