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All eyes on Roma vs Juventus as Serie A rolls into Match-Day 36

Atalanta vs Genoa

MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia

Saturday, 11-05-2019 @4pm

Gian Piero Gasperini has come a long way since he was on the Genoa bench and is on the verge of taking Atalanta to the Champions League.

The tactician is in pole position to secure the fourth Champions League place, while Genoa are in the midst of a relegation battle. A contrast of two different projects, results and objectives.

Atalanta are not only in the top four, but just one point behind Inter. Not even the most optimistic fan of La Dea could have predicted this mind-blowing season, especially as they’ll also challenge Lazio for the Coppa Italia Final on May 15. Along with great results, they are also playing attractive attacking football. The team is on a 10-game unbeaten streak in Serie A dating back to February.The club needs seven points from the final three Serie A rounds to guarantee Champions League football and it starts this weekend against Genoa.

However, this is a ‘home’ fixture in name only, as restructuring work started on the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia this week and their final two domestic games will be played at the Mapei Stadium. It’s not completely alien to Atalanta, as they already played all their Europa League home matches at Sassuolo’s ground.

They are suffering from suspensions to key players like Alejandro Gomez, Gianluca Mancini and Andrea Masiello. Musa Barrow is still out of action, with the season already over for Rafael Toloi, so Hans Hateboer could become an improvised centre-back. Josip Ilicic continues to nurse that knee injury, meaning he can’t really play 90 minutes, but he should start with Mario Pasalic as the trequartista.

It is a concern, because Atalanta played only two Serie A games without Papu Gomez this season, emerging with a draw and a defeat.

Genoa are in 16th position, one point behind Bologna and only four clear of Empoli in the relegation zone. The appointment of Cesare Prandelli seemed to have steadied the sinking ship for a little while, but they are on a seven-game winless run dating back to March 17. Luck hasn’t been on the Grifone’s side as they could have beaten Roma last weekend, but Antonio Sanabria’s stoppage-time penalty was saved.

Just as Stefano Sturaro started to justify his relatively expensive transfer fee, he suffered a ruptured ACL which means he will miss five to six months. He is joined in the stands by Oscar Hiljemark and Andrea Favilli, who are also out for the season, while Luca Mazzitelli is in doubt.

Prandelli is also facing his former club, having worked in the Atalanta youth academy and been their caretaker manager in 1993-94.

There have been 35 goals in the last 10 Serie A meetings between these teams. Their last draw was 2-2 at Marassi in January 2015, followed by five Atalanta wins and three for Genoa.

Cagliari vs Lazio

Sergdena Arena, Cagliari

Saturday, 11-05-2019 @7pm

Cagliari are still fuming after their late defeat to Napoli and want to take it out on a Lazio side who are focusing on the Coppa Italia.

Sardinian morale took a slight dive last Sunday, as Napoli claimed victory via a dubious penalty in the 98th minute. What’s even more hurtful is that Artur Ionita was shown a straight red for insulting the referee and received a two-match suspension. The midfielder has featured in every Serie A match this season and will be missed against Lazio.

A couple of weeks ago, Cagliari had assumed they were safe from the threat of relegation, but an Empoli resurgence means that is no longer guaranteed, as the gap stands at eight points with three rounds left. As well as suspended Ionita, Rolando Maran’s men are also without Paolo Faragò, as hip surgery will keep him on the touchline for six months.

Lazio saw their remaining Champions League hopes evaporate with last week’s 3-1 home defeat to Atalanta. The focus inevitably now turns to securing that Europa League spot, but above all preparing for the May 15 Coppa Italia Final against Atalanta, as winning that means direct access to the EL group stages too.

Simone Inzaghi is still without star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Valon Berisha and Jordan Lukaku, but Stefan Radu should return to the starting XI in place of error-prone Wallace. Joaquin Correa is the favourite ahead of Felipe Caicedo to support Ciro Immobile, with Senad Lulic returning from his ban.

The last two encounters these teams had at the Sardegna Arena both ended in draws, and this one may well too. Although the stronger team, Lazio seem likely to succumb to the pressure to reach a top six spot.

Lazio have lost only one of their last 13 Serie A meetings with Cagliari, 1-0 away in May 2013, along with 10 wins and two draws.

Fiorentina vs AC Milan

Artemio Franchi, Florence

Saturday, 11-05-2019 @9:30pm

Milan revived their hopes of a top-four finish, but have selection problems as they take on Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina in meltdown.

Montella, who was Milan’s Coach up until 18 months ago and led the club to their last trophy, the Italian Super Cup back in 2016, has returned to the Tuscan club for a second stint in charge. The former striker guided the Viola to three straight fourth place finishes and the Coppa Italia Final in the 2012-2015 era, and having returned just a month ago, will be looking to build for next season. Having said that, the situation is more desperate than anyone imagined, because with three rounds to go, Fiorentina are technically not safe from relegation.

Gennaro Gattuso, who replaced Montella in November 2017, will be hoping to fuel the seven-times European champions’ hopes of a return to the competition after a six-year hiatus, but currently faces an uphill battle. The Diavolo are three points behind surprise package Atalanta and have not been playing well for several months now, yet scraped a 2-1 win at home against Bologna on Monday.

That match made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with Brazilian playmaker Lucas Paqueta having been sent off for slapping away the referee’s hand and subsequently being given a three-match ban. Even before that, Lucas Biglia went off injured (and is expected to miss this game) with Tiemoue Bakayoko taking too long to get warmed up, so had a very public spat with Gattuso. It seems drama and confusion are never far from Milan.

Davide Calabria, Mattia Caldara, Ivan Strinic and Jack Bonaventura round out the absentees, but Andrea Conti ought to be on the bench. The absence of Biglia and Paqueta means Bakayoko could well play anyway, although Jose Mauri is a strong contender.

Fiorentina’s last victory came almost three months ago with a 4-0 result away to SPAL, meaning they have gone 13 games between the league and the Coppa Italia without a victory. Last time out they lost the Tuscan Derby to Empoli and had key midfielder Jordan Veretout sent off after the final whistle for insulting the referee, earning him a two-match ban.

German Pezzella also suffered a facial fracture during that game and joins Marko Pjaca on the treatment table. The usual question marks surround the choice of attack, with Kevin Mirallas the favourite to start with Luis Muriel and Federico Chiesa, sending Giovanni Simeone to the bench.

Milan were defeated 1-0 in December, but haven’t lost both home and away to Fiorentina in a single Serie A season since 2000-01.

Torino vs Sassoulo

Stadio Grande Torino, Torino

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @1:30pm

Walter Mazzarri’s Torino are still challenging for Europe, albeit probably not the top four, as they host a Sassuolo side free from pressure.

The home side still have a realistic chance of finishing in one of the Europa League places and will be looking to put pressure on Roma, who face Juventus later the same day.

Toro come into this off the back of their third draw in five games after a well-earned point in the Derby della Mole.

Venezuelan midfielder Tomas Rincon picked up his 15th yellow card of the season in the draw with Juventus last week and will be suspended for this one. Therefore 27-year-old Daniele Baselli is the most likely player to replace him in the engine room.

As for Sassuolo, their game with already-relegated Frosinone ended level in a 2-2 thriller to secure their place in mid table.

Roberto De Zerbi’s side, just like Torino, have drawn too many games of late with Neroverdi unbeaten in their last five, albeit with four draws and one victory.

Giangiacomo Magnani will remain on the side-lines with a hernia and is expected to return in June. Torino’s injury list includes Koffi Djidji, Iago Falque and Vittorio Parigini.

Torino have scored at least two goals in five of their last six home matches and with a Europa League place up for grabs we should expect that to continue.

A win for the home side could take them as high as fifth, above both Milan and Roma, dependent on Milan’s result on Saturday against Fiorentina.

Sassuolo have already secured a Serie A place for next season and are simply playing for pride, as they are only able to finish as high as ninth.

Torino have lost only six Serie A games this season, fewer than any 20-team top flight campaign since 1948-49.

Sampdoria vs Empoli

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @4pm

Empoli gave themselves hope of escaping relegation and now hope to take advantage of unmotivated Sampdoria.

Victory over Fiorentina last week kept the Tuscans afloat and allowed them to move within two points of Udinese, while dragging Genoa, Bologna, Parma and even Fiorentina back into the battle to avoid the drop.

Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli continues to deal with an injury crisis, as Domenico Maietta, Luca Antonelli, Antonino La Gumina, Cristian Dell’Orco, Lorenzo Polvani and Kevin Diks are all on the treatment table.

Star man Francesco Caputo is their best chance of escaping relegation, as he scored 15 goals in 35 Serie A appearances this season. His partner should again be Diego Farias, who got the winner against Fiorentina last week.

Sampdoria have seen their European ambitions evaporate over the last month, with one win from five, and Coach Marco Giampaolo warned he could walk away if the club doesn’t raise the bar for next season.

The only real motivation they have now is to get 36-year-old Fabio Quagliarella that Capocannoniere crown.

Omar Colley sits out a ban in defence with Joachim Andersen carrying an injury, so Lorenzo Tonelli is the logical replacement at centre-back. Gregoire Defrel and Gianluca Caprari face competition from Gaston Ramirez and Manolo Gabbiadini for the supporting roles to Quagliarella.

The positive news is the return of Ramirez, Jacopo Sala and Tonelli from their own bans in last week’s 3-3 thriller against Parma.

Empoli won only one of their 11 top flight visits to Samp, in September 2006, along with two draws and eight defeats.

Frosinone vs Udinese

Stadio Benito Stirpe, Frosinone

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @4pm

A true basement battle, as already-relegated Frosinone host Udinese, who sit only two points clear of the drop zone.

The home side don’t have much else than pride to play for, as they are already confirmed to play in Serie B next season. However, a single point would confirm that the Canarini would not finish rock bottom.

As is the case with relegated teams, those that survive the drop will try to snatch their better players, and this Frosinone squad is no different. Striker Camillo Ciano, who has seven goals this season, has reportedly been made a transfer target for SPAL, Genoa and Cagliari. He’ll also try to perform in these final three games in order to make an impression for his suitors.

Udinese could potentially be in the relegation zone by Sunday evening. They sit just two points ahead of Empoli, but their final few fixtures are all against lower-table opposition.

Striker Stefano Okaka has only scored twice in Serie A for his new team since joining from Watford and it’s again a choice between him and Kevin Lasagna to partner Ignacio Pussetto.

Neither side has scored much this season, with a combined total of 68 goals. For Udinese, someone will have to step up at this crucial point of the season.

Udinese (nine) and Frosinone (10) have found the net with the fewest players in Serie A this term.

SPAL vs Napoli

Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @7pm

Napoli visit a SPAL side who have beaten Roma, Juventus and Lazio this season and are celebrating Serie A safety.

Leonardo Semplici’s men have lost just one of their last five home games, which include victories over the likes of Roma, Juventus and Lazio.

With second place already secured and nothing to play for, Napoli’s season is effectively over and they haven’t played with a lot of gusto in their last few matches. Their hard-earned victory against Cagliari begs the question as to whether, mentally, they can be productive against sprightly SPAL.

The Spallini are also able to relax now that they’ve reached 42 points, incredibly placing them above Fiorentina. They’ve scored 13 goals in their last five fixtures and on the back of a four-goal victory on the road against Chievo, the White and Blues will be reasonably confident of adding the Partenopei to their collection of prestigious scalps.

Napoli have won three of their last five matches away from home, drawing one and losing the other against Empoli. Nikola Maksimovic, Amadou Diawara and Vlad Chiriches are still out injured, while David Ospina is on personal leave in Colombia.

It remains to be seen which combination of forwards Carlo Ancelotti will choose this time, as Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens battle to partner rediscovered captain Lorenzo Insigne.

Napoli have won their last 10 Serie A meetings with SPAL, home and away, but haven’t lost to them in all competition since a 4-2 thriller in September 1962.

Roma vs Juventus

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 12-05-2019 @9:30pm

Roma aim to keep their Champions League hopes alive and take advantage of stuttering Juventus form on Sunday.

Things seem to have gone from bad to worse for the Giallorossi over the past week. They were pegged back in the 90th minute last weekend by struggling Genoa for a 1-1 draw. Former Roma man Antonio Sanabria would’ve inflicted a defeat on his old club, had Antonio Mirante not saved the stoppage-time penalty.

The result wasn’t too particularly kind to Roma, as earlier in the evening Atalanta defeated crosstown rivals Lazio 3-1, meaning that La Dea are now three points ahead of them in the race for Champions League. They were also caught in fifth place by Milan, who have the superior head-to-head record.

During the week, prime target for the vacant Roma managerial position at the season’s end Antonio Conte seemingly turned down the job, as he believes his ambitions aren’t matched by the chairman of the club. This has led to Roma fans protesting against President James Pallotta, demanding that he sells up to new investors.

Interim manager Claudio Ranieri almost has a full squad to choose from for this match, as Diego Perotti is his only absentee for the do-or-die encounter. Daniele De Rossi returns to the midfield, with Nicolò Zaniolo expected to start ahead of Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert.

Meanwhile, Juventus have been the subject of their own managerial uncertainty. The club this week had to release a statement denying that they were set to part ways with Max Allegri, however conflicting reports claimed that Conte had turned down the Roma job with the interest of a return to Turin.

The Bianconeri come off two straight 1-1 draws – in the Derby d’Italia with Inter and the Derby della Mole with Torino. They have already claimed their eighth straight Scudetto, but Allegri will undoubtedly want to prove his critics wrong and finish the season strongly. They could potentially end up with 98 points should they win their remaining three games, an exceptional achievement for Allegri’s men.

However, their form has fallen away badly with one win in their last six competitive matches. The Old Lady hasn’t experienced a negative streak of one victory in seven games since Alberto Zaccheroni’s era in February 2010.

Juve will be without Alex Sandro, Douglas Costa, Mattia Perin, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and suspended Federico Bernardeschi. It means Moise Kean could finally get to start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, sending Paulo Dybala to the bench.

Roma have failed to score in five of their last six league games against Juventus, including three on the bounce. The only time they fired blanks in four consecutive Serie A meetings with Juve was from 1948-49.

Bologna vs Parma

Stadio Renato Dell’Ara, Bologna

Monday, 13-05-2019 @9:30pm

The Emilia-Romagna Derby is suddenly more tense than expected, because Bologna and Parma are not safe from relegation yet.

They had both been coasting towards safety, but with three rounds to go Bologna are only five points clear of Empoli in the drop zone and Parma sit one point in front of them. The Ducali have put together a dismal run of five consecutive stalemates and are without a win in eight rounds, going back to March 9 against Genoa.

Bologna are fresh from an ill-tempered 2-1 defeat to Milan, which saw Nicola Sansone and Mitchell Dijks sent off, so both are suspended here along with Andrea Poli.

This will put a real spanner in the works for Sinisa Mihajlovic, who may deploy Arturo Calabresi or Ladislav Krejci to left-back in place of Dijks. Roberto Soriano will comes back into the fold after his ban, providing service to Rodrigo Palacio and Riccardo Orsolini. Mattias Svanberg and Simone Edera are challenging for the remaining attacking spot.

Roberto D’Aversa’s side will be without suspended Juraj Kucka and Antonino Barillà, while the injury list remains extensive with the likes of Roberto Inglese, Nicolas Schiappacasse, Riccardo Gagliolo, Jonathan Biabiany and Alberto Grassi. Leo Stulac could therefore get a rare start in midfield with Matteo Scozzarella, but considering Kucka has scored in each of his last two games, he is a big loss.

It was a huge effort from his players in a thrilling 3-3 with Sampdoria in the previous round and despite what D’Aversa described as a naïve start, he praised his players for showing character to get back into the match.

Bologna and Parma are the only teams in the Emilia Romagna region to have won major titles. Bologna won their first of seven league titles in 1924-25 and their last major silverware in 1974 in the Coppa Italia, before Parma’s next title came in the 1991-92 Coppa Italia and then ten years later, in the 2001-02 Coppa Italia.

Each of Bologna’s last 14 Serie A goals were scored in the second half, as they haven’t found the net before the break since Torino on March 16.

Inte Milan vs Chievo

Stadio, Guiseppe Meazza, Milan

Monday, 13-05-2019 @10pm

Inter’s quest for back-to-back seasons in the Champions League continues this weekend, as they host already-relegated Chievo.

With only one win in their last five league games, Inter’s somewhat comfortable cushion in third now looks under threat, sitting just one point ahead of Atalanta and only four in front of Milan and Roma.

As for their opponents this weekend, their miserable season is now nearly over and life in Serie B has long been the focus for everyone involved at the club. I Mussi Volanti sit on a lowly 15 points and have won just two games all season, with only one of those coming away from home.

That win did come in their last game on the road, in Rome against Lazio, however, bringing an end to a whole campaign without a win away from home, in which they have lost 10 of their 17.

Despite all of that, Inter’s season has been so up and down, as it has the last few years, and you never quite know what they are capable of.

Anything but a win here would be seen as a disaster and with teams below them breathing down their necks, it is essential they do not slip up. Marcelo Brozovic and Danilo D’Ambrosio are suspended, with Stefan de Vrij in serious doubt due to an injury. The Croatian will be most sorely missed, as he makes the midfield tick, so Roberto Gagliardini should start with Borja Valero rather than Matias Vecino.

While Cedric Soares and Joao Miranda look likely to fill the gaps in defence, the duel between Lautaro Martinez and Mauro Icardi continues. Spalletti is keeping everyone on their toes, including the two Argentina international centre-forwards.

On paper, this should be a walk in the park for the Nerazzurri, especially given their record against Chievo. The away side have only ever beaten Inter five times in recent history and have only won once in Milan. That game came 18 years ago and Inter have won three of the last four meetings, scoring 11 goals in the process.

Chievo have little to play for and could well throw caution to the wind and give Inter a scare. Luciano Spalletti’s men have already lost to Bologna and Parma at home this campaign and there’s no guarantee Inter will walk this one.

Having said that, Inter are huge favourites, obviously, and you would imagine that they will try and get an early goal to put any chances of a shock to bed.

Chievo have only ever won one Serie A fixture away to Inter and that was their first visit in December 2001, followed by four draws and 11 defeats

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