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Football

Napoli vs Inter headlines Serie A Match-Day 37 action

Udinese vs SPAL

Darcia Arena, Udine

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @4pm

Udinese are only two points above the relegation zone now and it’s a must-win game against SPAL.

Their win last weekend against Frosinone was crucial in their efforts to remain clear of Empoli and the drop zone, but it’s getting too close for comfort.

Stefano Okaka, who was signed on loan from English club Watford in January, has started to find his groove as he netted twice last time out. He and fellow striker Kevin Lasagna will hope to take advantage of SPAL’s defence, which has conceded 50 goals this season.

The hosts will have to take advantage of the fact that Empoli, who sit in the final relegation spot, have Torino and Inter, two teams in the fight for European spots, as their remaining two fixtures. A win for Udinese, combined with Empoli failing to get all three points, would secure Udinese’s spot in Serie A for next season.

SPAL are looking to finish in the top half of the table for the first time since the 1960s. Should they get more points than Sassuolo over the final two match days, this would be confirmed. This would be impressive for a team that finished just three points above the relegation zone last season and who until 2017 hadn’t been in Serie A for over 50 years.

Striker Andrea Petagna has a respectable 15 goals this season, and will be looking to finish on a high for his Coach Leonardo Semplici. While still technically on loan from Atalanta, Petagna’s permanent move to SPAL has been all-but-confirmed.

Expect SPAL to be on the ball more, but Udinese will look to counter in order to avoid a stint in Serie B.

Udinese’s last victory over SPAL came in November 1978, a 2-0 win in Serie B.

Udinese are unbeaten in seven Serie A home games, but SPAL have won their last two away fixtures.

Genoa vs Cagliari

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @7pm

With two rounds remaining, this is suddenly a massive relegation dogfight and neither team is safe from the drop yet.

The Grifone go into their final two Serie A games of the season just a point above the relegation zone,after gaining just three points from their last six fixtures, losing three of them.

Cesare Prandelli has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to get them out of their crisis, as they risk relegation to Serie B for the first time since 2006-2007 season. To make matters worse for Prandelli, Genoa owner Enrico Preziosi has officially put the club up for sale and has now entrusted a financial advisor to oversee a change of ownership.

Cagliari life is much easier than the hosts as they need only one point from the last six to secure Serie A survival, sitting five points above relegation zone. But the Rossoblu have been in a series of bad form losing their last three games, while they secured only one win in their last five Serie A fixtures.

Coach Cesare Prandelli will have to do without his star defender Cristian Romero due to suspension, while Stefano Sturaro, Luca Mazzitelli and Oscar Hiljemark are injured. As for Rolando Maran, he will be ready to set forth his best line-up trying to mathematically secure Serie A survival, with only Artur Ionita out on a ban.

Genoa have won five of their last six home matches against Cagliari in all competitions.

Sassuolo vs Roma

MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia

Saturday, 18-05-2019 @9:30pm

Roma are buoyed by their victory over Juventus, but anything less than a win over Sassuolo could ruin European hopes all over again.

The penultimate Serie A game of the season finds the Giallorossi desperately trying to keep their Champions League dream alive.

The visitors are currently three points behind Coppa Italia finalists Atalanta, who occupy the final Champions League place. Although they are on level terms with Milan, the Rossoneri have a superior head-to-head record.

Atalanta’s defeat to Lazio this week could knock their confidence going into their clash with Juve this weekend and Roma must capitalise.

With Claudio Ranieri’s side undefeated in their last seven matches, you can only see one winner.

However, Sassuolo come into this one off the back of a 3-2 away defeat to Torino. They were down to 10 men for over an hour and were leading twice, beaten only by a spectacular Andrea Belotti overhead kick.

It’s been a tough time for Sassuolo of late, with just one win in six, and they have drawn far too many games this season. The Neroverdi occupy 10th place and have little left to play for.

Despite contrasting recent results, both Sassuolo and Roma enjoy a fair share of the ball, with Sassuolo averaging 53.50% possession and Roma 51.59%.

Mehdi Bourabia is suspended for the home side after his second yellow card for over-celebrating a goal. Manuel Locatelli will likely replace the Moroccan in midfield and Giangiacomo Magnani is out for the season with a hernia.

Roma have a clean injury and suspension list, but both Edin Dzeko and Patrik Schick are just one yellow card away from suspension and will need to be careful.

A win for the hosts wouldn’t change their position in the table, but defeat could see them drop as low as 15th.

If Roma win on Saturday, it would take them level on 65 points with high-flying Atalanta, at least until Gian Piero Gasperini’s men face Juventus on Sunday.

Roma have never lost a Serie A meeting with Sassuolo, winning seven and drawing four. That includes all five victories at the Mapei Stadium, in which they scored 11 goals and conceded one.

Chievo vs Sampdoria

Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @1:30pm

Fabio Quagliarella continues his bid for the Capocannoniere crown, while Sergio Pellissier says goodbye to the Bentegodi crowd.

Sampdoria followed up their draw away to Parma with a 2-1 home defeat to relegation-threatened Empoli last week. That made it five defeats in seven games with one victory within the same period, as they have settled into mid-table mediocrity.

Despite been relegated to Serie B, Chievo continue to make things difficult for opponents, as they conceded one goal in each half of their last encounter against Inter. The Gialloblu are without a win their last five home fixtures and will hope to give their loyal fans a taste of victory in their last home match.

It will be an emotional occasion, as veteran striker Pellissier was in the Chievo squad that gained their first ever promotion to Serie A and he’ll salute the crowd in his final home game before retirement.

Domenico Di Carlo’s side has an impressive home record against Marco Giampaolo’s men. Samp are winless at the Bentegodi since December 2013, managing just one point from four visits. From a defensive standpoint, Chievo are woefully deficient and Quagliarella will rarely have a better chance to boost his tally of 26 Serie A goals.

Suspended Nicola Rigoni and injured Ezequiel Schelotto miss out for Chievo, while Sampdoria have Edgar Barreto, Gregoire Defrel and Joachim Andersen on the treatment table.

The all-time Serie A record for fewest wins in a 20-team league is two, set by Treviso in 2005-06 and Pescara in 2016-17, but Chievo only have one so far.

Parma vs Sampdoria

Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @4pm

Incredibly, with two rounds to go, neither Parma nor Fiorentina are safe from relegation and it turns into a battle for survival.

Only a few weeks ago, both teams were settling for mid-table comfort and took their foot off the gas, but it seems they started planning their beach vacations a little early. While it’s to a degree understandable that Parma should feel they’ve earned a break after three consecutive promotions and a very strong start to the season, the Viola have no such excuse for a campaign that has been dismal.

They are arguably the teams in the worst form at the moment, as in the second half of the season Parma managed 13 points and Fiorentina 14. Only rock bottom Chievo did worse in that period with seven points.

Bruno Alves and Luca Rigoni are suspended for Parma, while Alberto Grassi and Nicolas Schiappacasse remain on the treatment table. Roberto Inglese made his comeback from several weeks out with injury and promptly scored in the 4-1 defeat to Bologna, a result that allowed Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men to leapfrog their local rivals in the table.

Fiorentina have practically a full squad to choose from, but Vincenzo Montella seems a long way off figuring out his best XI. German Pezzella should return at least for a spot on the bench after surgery for a fractured nose, while Giovanni Simeone is again benched.

Now at 12 rounds, is the longest winless Serie A streak for Fiorentina since 14 in 1981. Parma are without a victory in nine games.

Empoli vs Torino

Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @4pm

Everything is at stake here, as Empoli have dragged several other clubs into the relegation fight and Torino risk missing out on Europe.

The Granata were cheering on Atalanta to win the Coppa Italia Final, which would’ve granted them access to the second preliminary round of the Europa League even if they finished in seventh place. However, with Lazio lifting the Coppa, Torino will now have to gain as many points as possible from the last two games and hope for Milan or Roma (currently in joint fifth) to slip up.

Empoli, on the other hand, need points to secure Serie A safety and are currently involved in a three-way battle with Udinese and Genoa to avoid relegation. Expect Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men to battle for every ball in front of their home crowd in order to continue their top flight adventure next season.

While the Azzurri only lost once in their last six encounters with Torino and are fresh from two consecutive victories, Walter Mazzarri’s men are unbeaten since mid-March and can once again rely on hitman Andrea Belotti, who seems to be back to his best form lately.

There will be no players sitting out suspensions for this game, although Andreazzoli’s team will certainly be without Lorenzo Polvani, Antonino La Gumina, Domenico Maietta and Luca Antonelli, while Levan Mchedlidze and Kevin Diks are still being evaluated. Koffi Djidji is the only player missing for Torino due to injury.

Torino have lost only once this season in all of their Serie A away games, but five of their last seven were stalemates and they conceded only three goals during that period.

AC Milan vs Frosinone

Stadio Guisepe Meazza, Milan

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @7pm

This weekend gives Milan a huge opportunity to close the gap on Atalanta and fourth place, as they host already-relegated Frosinone.

The fixture list is kind to Gennaro Gattuso, giving him a game at San Siro that he’ll be expected to win comfortably, whereas Atalanta visit Juventus and Roma are away to a Sassuolo side who already gave Torino huge problems last week.

However, it also piles on the pressure and if there is no breakthrough early, the crowd could well turn on their misfiring heroes. Lucas Paqueta continues the three-match ban that has ended his season, while Davide Calabria, Mattia Caldara, Ivan Strinic and Jack Bonaventura are out with long-term injuries.

Hakan Calhanoglu seems to be permanently moved to the midfield now in place of Paqueta, allowing hard-working Fabio Borini to complete the trident attack with Suso and Krzysztof Piatek.

Frosinone are already doomed to the drop after just one season in Serie A and have struggled to make much impact on the league. They are going out with a whimper, managing one point from the last five rounds.

Raman Chibsah, Mirko Gori and Luca Paganini are all struggling with injuries, while the campaign is already over for Bartosz Salamon.

Federico Dionisi and Daniel Ciofani are challenging for the centre-forward role, supported by Camillo Ciano and Marcello Trotta.

Frosinone have only lost one of their three Serie A meetings with Milan, 4-2 in December 2015, followed by two draws.

Juventus vs Atalanta

Allianz Stadium, Torino

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @9:30pm

Atalanta missed out on one target by losing the Coppa Italia Final and now visit Juventus to retain fourth place.

The Bianconeri are fresh off a 2-0 defeat to Roma at the Olimpico last weekend – just their third loss of the season in a game that could still have a huge impact on their opponents, as it allowed the Giallorossi to stay in the hunt for a Champions League spot.

Their eighth successive Scudetto celebrations, however, have been marred by concerns over Max Allegri’s future with the club, while reports said that he was offered a renewal until 2021 following the long-awaited summit with Andrea Agnelli. There has also been talk that Antoine Griezmann’s imminent departure from Atletico Madrid could force a domino effect in the summer, with Atleti ready to swoop for Paulo Dybala.

Nevertheless, the club must continue to focus on the field and let the season play out before discussion over the future. They have only won once in their past five league games and will be hoping to finish off the season on a high as they aim for Champions League glory next season.

La Vecchia Signora have a good opportunity to silence their critics in the next two fixtures, and will attempt to spoil Gian Piero Gasperini and Atalanta’s potential Champions League party.

Douglas Costa, Mattia Perin, Sami Khedira and Giorgio Chiellini are Allegri’s absentees through injury, which means that Andrea Barzagli could start one last game in a Bianconeri shirt in Turin before he retires at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Gasperini has almost one final hurdle in his quest to take his team to the Champions League – a struggling Juventus.

There seems to be a merry-go-round waiting for the summer with coaching roles becoming vacant, as reports yesterday said that Gasperini was all but set for the Roma role next season. This, yet again, must wait to prevent any distractions in one of the biggest races of the club’s recent history.

The Orobici will be looking to bounce back from midweek misery, as they were downed in the Coppa Italia Final 2-0 by Lazio. In the league, however, they are unbeaten since February 24, with their impressive run of form firing them into fourth spot.

A victory this weekend would all but secure Champions League qualification and all they would then need is a point against Sassuolo. As things stand, they are currently three points clear of both Milan and Roma, with the latter needing a perfect finish to the season to have any hope.

Atalanta are still without Rafael Toloi, while Jose Luis Palomino is suspended. The fatigue of playing in the Coppa Italia Final on Wednesday could take its toll, especially if Hans Hateboer is again rerouted to centre-back in order to fill the gaps.

Atalanta’s last Serie A win over Juventus came in February 2001, but they haven’t secured a victory in Turin since 1989. However, Gasperini’s men did crush Juve 3-0 in the Coppa Italia back in January.

Napoli vs Inter Milan

Stadio San Paolo, Naples

Sunday, 19-05-2019 @9:30pm

Napoli host Inter in a battle of the ‘best of the rest’ on Sunday night in what could be a tactical game at the San Paolo.

The Partenopei have confirmed their second-place finish behind Juventus a couple of weeks ago, while the Nerazzurri, who currently lie in third only one point ahead of Atalanta, can sew up a Champions League place with a win.

This week, all the talk in and around both clubs has been about matters off the pitch. Napoli patron Aurelio de Laurentiis has spoken about club captain Lorenzo Insigne wanting to leave several times, while the fans have protested at recent results.

Inter, on the other hand, have been in constant limbo about their Coach Luciano Spalletti’s status. Rumours and reports of a deal being struck with Antonio Conte have failed to go away, despite the CEO Beppe Marotta rejecting criticism of the Tuscan tactician. Speaking to the media just before Il Biscione’s 2-0 win over Chievo on Monday night, the former Juventus Chief Executive said “the rumors about Spalletti’s future aren’t helpful.”

Back on the field of play, both clubs will be looking to end the season on a high. Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti, who himself has not been without his critics this year, will look to send his team out to attack and win. However, expect Spalletti to have Inter take a cautious approach to the game, knowing that their qualification for Europe’s most prestigious competition is within reach. He will not want his team to take any unnecessary risks of potentially dropping out of the top four.

The hosts are expected to have both Insigne and Dries Mertens back in the squad after they missed the victory away to SPAL last week, while Amadou Diawara, Vlad Chiriches, Nikola Maksimovic and Adam Ounas are injured. For Inter, the only absentee is Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij, as Marcelo Brozovic and Danilo D’Ambrosio return from suspension.

Inter have kept three consecutive clean sheets against Napoli in Serie A, home and away.

Lazio vs Bologna

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Monday, 20-05-2019 @9:30pm

Lazio can afford to relax now, safe in the knowledge they’ve won the Coppa Italia and qualified for the Europa League, while Bologna are almost safe.

Simone Inzaghi’s men had every reason to celebrate wildly after beating Atalanta 2-0 on Wednesday night to clinch the second trophy of his coaching career, their first edition of the Coppa Italia since 2013. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic came off the bench to open the scoring within minutes of his return from injury, followed by a classic Joaquin Correa counter-attack.

That victory also ensures Lazio go straight into the Europa League group phase and they can effectively take their foot off the gas in Serie A for these remaining two games.

Stefan Radu is suspended, with Valon Berisha and Jordan Lukaku long-term injury absentees. It’s likely Ciro Immobile will be rested, as he has looked a shadow of his former self in recent months, allowing Felipe Caicedo to partner Correa.

Bologna have been on sparkling form of late and the 4-1 hammering of local rivals Parma last week saw them surge five points clear of the relegation zone. If Empoli don’t beat Torino on Sunday, then Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side would already be guaranteed Serie A safety before setting foot on the pitch on Monday evening.

Federico Mattiello is the only real injury absentee, as Andrea Poli and Nicola Sansone return from suspension, but Mitchell Dijks continues his ban.

Bologna lost 2-0 in December, but haven’t been beaten by Lazio home and away in a single season since 2004-05.

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