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Juventus hope to edge closer to 8th consecutive title when Serie A rolls into Week 30

AC Milan vs Udinese

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Tuesday, 02-04-2019 @10pm

Milan have lost two on the bounce and feel Champions League football is in doubt as they host Udinese revitalised by a new Coach.

Gennaro Gattuso and director Leonardo are back to dealing with questions over the tactician’s future and what happens if they fail to finish in the top four, as back-to-back defeats to Inter and Sampdoria have thrown everything back in doubt.

On the other hand, Udinese surged away from the drop zone thanks to an impressive 2-0 victory over Genoa, the ‘debut’ of Coach Igor Tudor. He had already been at the helm for four games at the end of last season, but walked away after failing to agree on a joint path forward. The Croatian was recalled during the break for international duty to replace sacked Davide Nicola.

Tudor moved to a 4-3-3 formation, but is without suspended Jens Stryger-Larsen and midfielder Sandro, while Antonin Barak, Bram Nuytinck and Marco D’Alessandro are injured. There are many options open to him, including Kevin Lasagna stepping in for Stefano Okaka, flanked by Ignacio Pussetto and Rodrigo De Paul.

Milan have practically a full squad to choose from, having rested Lucas Paqueta against Sampdoria. Franck Kessie was benched for that trip following his unseemly row with teammate Lucas Biglia on the touchline during the derby, but should return on Tuesday night.

Suso’s form has been awful lately and he could well be the next player to be given the evening off, with Patrick Cutrone raring to go in more of a 4-3-1-2 system than Gattuso’s usual 4-3-3. It should allow Paqueta to move in a role more suited to him, with Cutrone ensuring Krzysztof Piatek is not so isolated.

Udinese have kept one clean sheet in their last 20 Serie A trips to Milan, a 1-0 victory in September 2016.

Cagliari vs Juventus

Sardegna Arena, Cagliari

Tuesday, 02-04-2019 @10pm

Juventus just about got back to winning ways last week, but are distracted by the Champions League in a very tricky visit to Cagliari.

Ajax are on the horizon and Cristiano Ronaldo joined on the treatment table by Paulo Dybala, Leonardo Spinazzola, Andrea Barzagli, Sami Khedira, Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and flu-ridden Mario Mandzukic. It all means Moise Kean gets his chance to start for Juve, having scored last week as a substitute to beat Empoli, and before that finding the net in each full senior Italy cap against Finland and Liechtenstein. We could also see a return to the 3-5-2 system, although Martin Caceres can play as a full-back or in central defence when needed.

Cagliari are very strong on home turf and that is the only reason why they are currently eight points clear of the relegation zone. Rolando Maran’s men crushed Chievo 3-0 last week for only their second away win of the season, the first since September. It was achieved despite missing suspended hitman Leonardo Pavoletti, who returns on Tuesday and is raring to go at a Juve defence that has shown weakness on set plays. He has faced the Bianconeri three times and is yet to score against them.

The Sardinians have won their last two Serie A games and a third would be their best run since October 2016. They have also registered three consecutive home victories and seem to have found their form in the final sprint to stay in Serie A.

Juve are unbeaten against Cagliari in Serie A since November 2009, emerging with 13 wins and three draws. They’ve won each of the last five encounters, home and away, with four clean sheets.

Empoli vs Napoli

Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli

Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @10pm

Empoli slipped into the relegation zone following their unlucky defeat to Juventus and have another extremely difficult task with Napoli.

The Tuscans had received a boost with the return of Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, replacing sacked Beppe Iachini, but a dominant first half performance against Juve was not enough to pick up any points. Moise Kean came off the bench to score the deciding goal. That result, coupled with victories for Udinese, Bologna and SPAL, mean that Empoli have slipped back into the bottom three and are currently two points adrift of safety.

They are certainly more motivated than Napoli, who know the Scudetto party in Turin is only a matter of time with the gap at 15 points. The lone target for this season at the Stadio San Paolo is the Europa League and all focus is going towards that quarter-final with Arsenal.

Having said that, the Partenopei showed they are still capable of turning on the style, thrashing Roma 4-1 in the Capital on Sunday. That was achieved despite missing Lorenzo Insigne, Faouzi Ghoulam, Raul Albiol, Amadou Diawara and Vlad Chiriches, but Dries Mertens and Elseid Hysaj limped off during that game and are both expected to sit this one out.

It’s the opportunity for Carlo Ancelotti to perform a few experiments, such as Adam Ounas and Arkadiusz Milik upfront, with Simone Verdi retaining his spot on the left wing after an impressive performance – and goal – against Roma. Piotr Zielinski returns refreshed from suspension, while Amin Younes and Sebastiano Luperto are pushing for more playing time too.

Empoli continue to miss Antonino La Gumina, Levan Mchedlidze and Jacob Rasmussen, but Diego Farias and Francesco Caputo form a strong attacking partnership. Marko Pajac has been an interesting discovery since Andreazzoli took over, with Rade Krunic and Ismael Bennacer the midfield inspiration.

Napoli have won their last four Serie A meetings with Empoli. It’s a high-scoring fixture, as in the last three Stadio Castellani encounters, both teams have found the net at least twice for a total 15 goals.

Roma vs Fiorentina

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @10pm

The wheels are coming off the bus for both their seasons, as Roma and Fiorentina risk missing out on their European targets.

Claudio Ranieri has so far been unable to stop the rot at Roma, as replacing Eusebio Di Francesco has made little difference to results or performances. Defeat to SPAL was followed by a 4-1 thrashing at home courtesy of Napoli, which saw his team jeered off the pitch. As things stand, not only do they risk missing Champions League football, but could also feasibly be overtaken in the Europa League spots.

Fiorentina have practically given up on their ambitions already this season, as far too many stalemates – most of them at the Stadio Franchi – saw them fall behind the other contenders. Coach Stefano Pioli has dropped multiple hints he is leaving at the end of the season, with Federico Chiesa and Jordan Veretout among those considering their futures.

Chiesa missed the 1-1 Torino stalemate last week with a muscular injury and is expected to still be out here too, along with Edimilson Fernandes and long-term absentee Marko Pjaca. Bryan Dabo and Roma loaner Gerson could well start, sending Kevin Mirallas to the bench, as Giovanni Simeone and Luis Muriel lead the way. Roma are Muriel’s favourite Serie A targets, putting six goals past them.

Roma are decimated by various problems, as Kostas Manolas only just made his comeback from injury and immediately got suspended. Alessandro Florenzi, Stephan El Shaarawy and Javier Pastore are still on the treatment table, but Nicolò Zaniolo is available from the start after recovering from a stomach bug. Lorenzo Pellegrini also returns in midfield, where Daniele De Rossi is not 100 per cent fit.

The experiment of using Edin Dzeko and Patrik Schick has yet to work, but Ranieri seems determined to keep trying. The big surprise could be in goal, where another howler from Robin Olsen against Napoli prompted many to call for Antonio Mirante to take over for the rest of the season.

Of course, Roma are still having nightmares about their most recent encounter with Fiorentina. They played at the Stadio Franchi in the Coppa Italia quarter-final on January 30 and emerged with an historic 7-1 thrashing, their worst ever result in the competition. Chiesa had a hat-trick, with Giovanni Simeone’s brace, while Muriel and Marco Benassi were also on target. Aleksandar Kolarov had the lone reply and Dzeko saw red late on.

If Roma lose, it’ll be the first time they’ve suffered three consecutive Serie A defeats since May 2014.

Genoa vs Inter Milan

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @10pm

Genoa already beat Juventus a couple of weeks ago and hope to inflict more damage on an Inter side torn apart by in-fighting.

The situation in the Nerazzurri camp reached breaking point on Sunday night after a 1-0 home defeat to Lazio. When questioned about Mauro Icardi’s absence, Coach Luciano Spalletti finally cast off the shroud of diplomacy and revealed what everyone suspected anyway – the striker was stripped of the captaincy for his behaviour, milked a knee injury and the club had to negotiate with a lawyer for his return to training.

The question now is what happens next? Icardi returns, but with what atmosphere? The injury crisis in attack rages on, as Lautaro Martinez is still out following a problem on international duty, as is Stefan de Vrij, so Keita Balde Diao is again the only option as a makeshift centre-forward. Radja Nainggolan should at least be ready to start, sending Borja Valero and Matias Vecino to the bench, with Roberto Gagliardini a likely midfield addition.

Genoa are a difficult side to predict, as they seem to raise their game against the big clubs. They became the first and so far only side to beat Juventus in Serie A this season, but then promptly lost to relegation-threatened Udinese with a whimper. Marassi also brings the best out of them and Antonio Sanabria returns after he was rested in Udine, partnering Christian Kouame.

Captain Domenico Criscito is suspended, so Giuseppe Pezzella should step in, with Pedro Pereira and Davide Biraschi challenging for the right-back slot. Goran Pandev is raring to go against his old club, having scored in each of the last two editions of this fixture at Marassi.

Inter have lost each of their last five Serie A trips to Genoa, firing blanks in four of them.

SPAL vs Lazio

Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara

Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @10pm

SPAL and Lazio are both coming off precious away victories, but the pressure is on for every point in the final weeks of the season.

Leonardo Semplici’s men snatched a 1-0 win at Frosinone, but remain only four points clear of the relegation zone. It is absolutely no coincidence that the upturn in form came when Manuel Lazzari returned from injury and he’ll be particularly eager to impress, seeing as Lazio have been repeatedly linked with a swoop this summer.

Ex-Lazio veteran Sergio Floccari is battling with Alberto Paloschi to start as partner to striker Andrea Petagna. It’s a special match for Alessandro Murgia, the Aquile youth product currently on loan at SPAL.

Lazio came so close to Champions League football last season and look set to make it another dramatic fight to the final round. In recent weeks, Simone Inzaghi’s side have shaken off the reputation of failing to beat the big clubs, seeing off Roma and Inter, while they are also in the Coppa Italia semi-final against Milan.

More importantly, the Biancocelesti have a game in hand against Udinese on April 17, so if they win that, will be level on points with Milan in fourth place. There’s still a San Siro showdown to go in Serie A between those rivals, with Atalanta and even Roma also hovering.

Stefan Radu and Joaquin Correa are injury doubts, with Jordan Lukaku out for the rest of the campaign. Felipe Caicedo is the natural choice to partner Ciro Immobile, with Adam Marusic returning in place of Romulo on the right wing.

If SPAL win this, it’ll be the first time they’ve had three consecutive Serie A victories since 1967-68.

Frosinone vs Parma

Stadio Benito Stirpe, Frosinone

Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @10pm

These sides were promoted together from Serie B last summer, but Frosinone look like they’re heading straight back and Parma are comfortably mid-table.

The Canarini are quite rightly proud of their Stadio Benito Stirpe arena, one of the most modern in Italy, but are also somehow yet to win a Serie A match here. They have the worst home record in the division, managing just five draws and nine defeats, with nine goals scored and 28 conceded.

Last week’s 1-0 defeat to SPAL was probably the final straw in any lingering hopes of safety, because it left them 10 points adrift of Bologna, who clambered out of the drop zone. Bologna, Udinese, SPAL and Cagliari have all stepped up a gear recently, but it’s probably too late for Frosinone.

Parma have been coasting for weeks now, as they sit mid-table and rest on their laurels. It’s understandable enough, considering the extraordinary intensity of the last four years since bankruptcy, becoming the first Italian team ever to win three back-to-back promotions and then secure safety by the onset of spring.

Roberto Inglese and Jonathan Biabiany were out injured against SPAL and Gervinho limped off too, joining Leo Stulac and Alberto Grassi on the treatment table. It means Uruguayan talent Nicolas Schiappacasse should finally get his first Serie A start, supporting Fabio Ceravolo and Luca Siligardi.

Frosinone miss Federico Viviani and Mirko Gori, but aren’t expected to make many changes to Marco Baroni’s starting XI. Paolo Sammarco comes in for Viviani in midfield and will be hoping for better luck after he hit the upright last week.

The Canarini are the only team in Europe’s top five leagues yet to register a home victory this season. Only the Premier League’s Huddersfield (seven) have scored fewer home goals than Frosinone (nine).

Torino vs Sampdoria

Stadio Grande Torino, Torino

Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @10pm

Torino and Sampdoria have emerged as genuine contenders for the Europa League places, so this is a six-pointer for position.

They go into this midweek round locked together on 45 points in joint eighth place, yet are only three points off Lazio (who have a game in hand) and Atalanta in fifth. It’s incredibly tight and the race for a ticket to Europe will go down to the wire.

Fabio Quagliarella is shattering every record this season, top of the Capocannoniere charts with a career best 21 goals and becoming the oldest ever player to score for Italy at 36 years and 54 days. His inclusion in the Azzurri squad for those Euro 2020 qualifiers against Finland and Liechtenstein came at the expense of Andrea Belotti, who has really struggled so far this term with just 10 goals in 29 Serie A games.

If Quagliarella scores, don’t expect him to celebrate, as he never does against his old clubs. He made his Serie A debut for Torino in May 2000, but they are now among his favourite victims, putting four goals past them.

Iago Falque is not 100 per cent fit, so Simone Zaza should be Belotti’s strike partner, while Ola Aina continues his three-match ban for insulting the referee. Nicolas N’Koulou returns from suspension and Sasa Lukic fights to keep his midfield berth from Soualihe Meite.

Sampdoria continue to miss Gianluca Caprari, Edgar Barreto and Albin Ekdal, but Gregoire Defrel has found form lately and scored the winner against Milan within 33 seconds last week. Riccardo Saponara is hoping to push Gaston Ramirez back on to the bench, with Jakub Jankto and Bartosz Bereszynski also eager to get more playing time.

Blucerchiati Coach Marco Giampaolo marks his 300th Serie A game, so far enjoying 89 victories, 125 defeats and 85 draws.

Samp have not lost both to Torino home and away in a single Serie A season since 1976-77.

Sassuolo vs Chievo

MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia

Thursday, 04-04-2019 @10pm

Serie B beckons for Chievo, but Sassuolo surprisingly find themselves only seven points clear of the relegation zone and in dire form.

The Flying Donkeys realistically never stood a chance, as they started the campaign with a three-point penalty for financial irregularities, then went through three Coaches – including Giampiero Ventura for four games – while even improving performances under Domenico Di Carlo haven’t been enough to scrape results.

With just one victory all season, Chievo are already preparing for life in the second tier next season. Frosinone look practically guaranteed to join them, but it’s a huge fight to avoid that final berth.

Empoli are currently sitting third from bottom with 25 points, but Sassuolo only have 32, followed by SPAL and Udinese on 29, then Bologna 27. The Neroverdi had a stunning start to the season, but selling Kevin-Prince Boateng to Barcelona in January lowered the quality level significantly and the whole squad seemed to rest on their mid-table laurels.

Claud Adjapong is the only injury absentee for Roberto De Zerbi, although Marlon is also at risk just days after his first start of the campaign. Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga will complete the trident attack with either Khouma Babacar or Filip Djuricic.

Chievo have Fabio Depaoli and Riccardo Meggiorini suspended, with Ezequiel Schelotto and Nenad Tomovic still on the treatment table. Manuel Pucciarelli is expected to get the nod in attack, with Sergio Pellissier ready to come off the bench.

Chievo have only lost one of their five Serie A trips to Sassuolo, drawing two and winning two.

Atalanta vs Bologna

Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, Bergamo

Thursday, 04-04-2019 @10pm

Atalanta can move to within a point of Milan and the Champions League places, but host a Bologna side that just escaped the drop zone.

The Scudetto race may have been won embarrassingly early, but the fights for European qualification and to avoid relegation look as if they’ll go down to the wire. Inter and Milan are stuttering, and the Rossoneri only drew 1-1 with Udinese on Tuesday evening, meaning a victory here would put Atalanta one point off the Champions League berth.

Bologna are no less motivated, as the dramatic last-gasp victory over Sassuolo allowed them to climb out of the bottom three for the first time in four months, leapfrogging Empoli and moving two points clear. It was their third straight win after beating Cagliari and Torino, so a fourth would be their best Serie A run since May 1967.

Mattia Destro came off the bench to score the winner and promptly celebrated with such intensity that he injured himself, so is out of this game along with Federico Mattiello. Federico Santander returns after a shoulder injury and should start with either Simone Edera or Nicola Sansone in support. Riccardo Orsolini was very lively against Sassuolo and Erick Pulgar is back in the starting XI.

Atalanta miss Rafael Toloi, but Josip Ilicic has shaken off a knock to start with Papu Gomez and Duvan Zapata, returning Mario Pasalic to the bench. Berat Djimsiti is more likely than Jose Luis Palomino to deputise for Toloi in defence.

Bologna have won only one of their last 27 Serie A trips to Atalanta, losing 15 and drawing 11. That includes four consecutive defeats, while they have lost their last six top flight encounters with Atalanta, home and away.

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