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Turin derby headlines Serie A Match-Day 35

Juventus vs Torino

Allianz Stadium, Torino

Friday, 03-05-2019 @9:30pm

Torino can keep their Champions League hopes alive against arch rivals Juventus in probably the most unpredictable Derby della Mole in decades.

Juve confirmed their eighth successive Scudetto recently and currently now hold an 18-point lead over Napoli. They confirmed the Scudetto a fortnight ago with their 2-1 victory over Fiorentina and were then held to a 1-1 draw in the Derby d’Italia against Inter.

Questions have been raised over Max Allegri’s future with the club, however the tactician hit out at critics midweek claiming that “football is a stupid sport for intelligent people.” He also confirmed that he intends to stay with the club following this season and that the club has no intention of replacing him on the Juventus bench.

Allegri has quite a few injuries, as Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro, Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira are all notable absentees.

Meanwhile, across the city, Torino have scratched and clawed their way back to within three points of a once-unlikely Champions League place. They leapfrogged Milan with a 2-0 victory over them last weekend and have every right to believe that they are able to mark their return to Europe.

This is shaping to be one of the biggest derbies of recent memory for Toro, as they need a near-perfect end to the season should they be in for a chance of fourth place.

Walter Mazzarri claimed that Toro “no longer feel an inferiority complex with anybody” and he has the utmost faith in his side. Koffi Djidji is still missing through injury while Emiliano Moretti is suspended following his caution last week, but Simone Zaza and Daniele Baselli return from bans. Iago Falque should also be available at least as a substitute.

Juve have only lost once in their past 25 meetings with Torino, a 2-1 defeat in April 2015 following goals from Matteo Darmian and Fabio Quagliarella, along with five draws. Toro’s last ‘away’ win in the derby was 2-1 in 1995, followed by three draws and nine losses.

Chievo vs SPAL

Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona

Saturday, 04-05-2019 @7pm

The Stadio Bentegodi will be host to one of Chievo’s last Serie A games, but SPAL are in a comfortable position to prepare for next season in the top flight.

The Flying Donkeys are already relegated and will encounter a solid SPAL that managed five wins in their last seven matches, including a victory over champions Juventus.

Semplici has been at the helm of SPAL since the 2014-15 season and has overseen their marvelous progression from the lower ranks of Serie C all the way to a solid 13th place current standing in the Italian top tier.

Chievo, on the other hand, will be interrupting their 11-year presence in Serie A, exhibiting a disastrous season with a three-point deduction and three changes of Coach (including a shameful spell with ex-CT Giampiero Ventura that only lasted four matches), thus confirming relegation six rounds before the end of the season.

However, the Biancazzuri are yet to win against Chievo, snatching only two points in their last three Serie A encounters. Had this game been played earlier in the season, with something more at stake, it might’ve been a fiercer clash.

Francesco Vicari will not make the trip to Verona due to suspension, alongside injured Bosko Jankovic.

Domenico Di Carlo is using this period to give younger players experience, such as 21-year-old goalkeeper Adrian Semper and teenage trequartista Emanuel Vignato, while Federico Barba and Mehdi Leris are sitting out suspensions. Chievo have also lost Ezequiel Schelotto for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament rupture.

SPAL and Bologna are the form sides in Serie A at the moment with 16 points in the last seven rounds.

Udinese vs Inter Milan

Darcia Arena, Udine

Saturday, 04-05-2019 @9:30pm

Inter now have to focus on getting third place locked down and it won’t be easy against an Udinese side desperate for safety.

These represent two simultaneous battles for different objectives and targets, one on top of the table to secure Champions League qualification and one to avoid relegation to Serie B.

Udinese are 17th in the league, only four points clear of the relegation zone and Empoli. They are currently on a four-game winless run, with their last victory coming ironically against Empoli a month ago. Former Juventus defender Igor Tudor is the third Coach in charge this season and with a squad decimated by injuries, results are not coming Le Zebrette’s way. His second spell at this club will likely end as the previous one, in case they fail to avoid relegation.

The squad is suffering from different injuries and absences. Nicholas Opoku, William Troost-Ekong, Seko Fofana, Hidde Ter Avest, Antonin Barak and Valon Behrami are all out of action. Defender Samir is suspended, but Bram Nuytinck is finally ready to start after a long lay-off.

Inter now sit eight points behind Napoli and only three in front of Atalanta with a raging battle right behind them. Considering the unpredictable nature of the fight for the top four, Luciano Spalletti’s men cannot relax yet.

The team has put in a series of positive results, as they are unbeaten in five rounds. They go into this fixture as the favourites, having won their last five trips to Udine. However, Udinese are unbeaten in six home matches and haven’t reached seven since October 2014.

The futures of Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic are up in the air this summer, but Giuseppe Marotta’s appointment as CEO has fans thrilled about the upcoming transfer window. Sime Vrsaljko is the only injured player for this team, he is out for the season after having knee surgery.

It remains to be seen who will get the nod in attack, whether Icardi or Lautaro Martinez, as Spalletti is trying to keep both Argentines on their toes.

Inter have been dominant in Udine, winning their last five trips to Friuli, scoring 15 goals and conceding two.

Empoli vs Fiorentina

Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli

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

It’s a Tuscan Derby as Empoli face Fiorentina, and with just a few rounds to go, both will be desperate for points – although with different objectives in mind.

Both teams come into this game in lousy form, to say the least. Empoli have won just one of their last five games, and find themselves in 18th place, four points adrift of safety. The Azzurri are facing a possible return right back down to Serie B, unless if they can turn things around and drag fellow strugglers Udinese back down into the relegation zone. The Zebrette are in poor form themselves and take on Inter this weekend, so it’s Empoli’s best opportunity to turn things around.

It feels like a lifetime ago that Empoli pulled off that shock 2-1 win over Napoli and effectively ended any slim glimmer of hope the Partenopei had of the Scudetto race. Since then, they did manage to resist the Atalanta siege for a scoreless stalemate, but they lost to SPAL, Udinese and Bologna. The defeat to Udinese in particular will have hurt, as the Zebrette are equally in dire straits and that likely was the game that could prove decisive in determining who remains in the top flight.

The hosts come into this game having suffered another major blow in the form of a 3-1 defeat to Bologna, who have suddenly sprung to life under their new manager and have rapidly put some distance between themselves and the drop zone – and certainly, Empoli fans can’t help but look up at the Rossoblu with envy at this point.

Fiorentina, for their part, are without a win in their last 10 and have picked up just two points during what has been a very frustrating five-round spell for the Viola. Gone are their hopes for a European spot. They were also dumped out of the Coppa Italia by Atalanta, and so thus evaporated their chances of winning what would have been a shock trophy this season.

Vincenzo Montella’s arrival in place of Stefano Pioli does not appear to have resolved any issues and it’s a truly disappointing conclusion to what had been a promising campaign.

These two teams have fumbled more points from leading situations than any other Serie A side this season, as Empoli lost 27 and Fiorentina 24.

Lazio vs Atalanta

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 05-05-2019 @4pm

These teams will meet again here in the Coppa Italia Final on May 15, but meanwhile it’s a head-to-head for Champions League football.

Atalanta have been without doubt the surprise of the season, surging clear into fourth place just days after securing their ticket to the first Coppa Final for over 20 years. Duvan Zapata is in joint second place for the Capocannoniere title, just two goals behind Fabio Quagliarella and on a par with Krzysztof Piatek.

Josip Ilicic was rested for last week’s 2-0 win over Udinese after an ankle knock, adding to his recurring knee issue, and should be back on form at the Stadio Olimpico with captain Papu Gomez. The only absentee for Gian Piero Gasperini remains Rafael Toloi, as the season is over for the defender after surgery.

Only Bayern Munich (39) and Hoffenheim (38) have more away goals than Atalanta’s 37 in Europe’s top five leagues this season.

Lazio are still in the hunt for a potential Champions League spot, as they sit only four points behind Atalanta going into this weekend. It could also prove decisive, because if two or more teams finish level on points, their status is decided by head-to-head record and Atalanta beat them 1-0 in Bergamo back in December. That means the Biancocelesti need to win by two clear goals to get the advantage.

Simone Inzaghi’s men had all but given up on a top four finish after a run of one point from four rounds, including defeats to SPAL and Chievo. The 2-1 victory away to Sampdoria revived their hopes, even though as always there are limited choices available.

Senad Lulic is suspended, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic joining Stefan Radu, Valon Berisha, Riza Durmisi and Jordan Lukaku on the treatment table. Luis Alberto returns from his one-match ban, while Adam Marusic is expected to step in on the left wing.

We could see a change of tack from Inzaghi, using the 3-4-1-2 formation with Joaquin Correa given almost a free role behind front two Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo. Considering their performances against Samp last week, it would be tough to leave Caicedo or Correa out of the starting XI. As Atalanta are known to go all-out attack, it’s also worth Lazio using their own firepower.

Atalanta are unbeaten against Lazio in three Serie A meetings, so a fourth would be their longest streak since 2001.

Sassuolo vs Frosinone

MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia

Sunday, 05-05-2019 @4pm

Defeat to Sassuolo would mathematically relegate Frosinone to Serie B after just one season in the top flight.

The visitors come into the match currently 10 points away from safety, and with four games left, Marco Baroni’s men are well aware they’d need a miracle.

On the other hand, Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo are beaming after a hard-fought victory on the road over Fiorentina on Monday and are now looking to bring some of that confidence back to their home stadium this weekend.

With two wins and three draws, the Neroverdi are unbeaten in five rounds, and with no real chance at European football, the main goal remains to finish as high up the table as possible. With Giangiacomo Magnani injured and full-back Federico Peluso suspended, De Zerbi has to make some adjustments in defence with Rogerio and Alex Ferrari.

Frosinone know that they could mathematically seal their relegation this weekend in case of defeat. They had started April with such promising back-to-back wins over Parma and Fiorentina, but went straight back to the dismal form that characterized most of their campaign.

Federico Viviani and defender Bartosz Salamon are still out injured, but top scorer Camillo Ciano returns from suspension to bolster their chances. Andrea Pinamonti is the favourite to be his strike partner, but there is competition from Daniel Ciofani and Federico Dionisi.

Frosinone have never beaten Sassuolo in Serie A, managing a draw from three meetings.

Parma vs Sampdoria

Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma

Sunday, 05-05-2019 @4pm

Sampdoria are out of the running for a Europa League spot, but Parma are sliding back down towards the danger zone.

Last week, Parma missed a huge opportunity to cement their status in the league, as they drew 1-1 against rock bottom side Chievo Verona on the road. That was their fourth consecutive stalemate and they are without a victory since beating Genoa 1-0 on March 9, followed by three defeats and those four draws. They not sit just eight points clear of the bottom three.

Marco Giampaolo’s side are ninth in the league, but now the gap with Lazio is seven points and considering the brawl up there just for fourth place, any break back into that race seems unlikely. Sampdoria will be smarting from their 2-1 defeat at home to Lazio and their main focus will now be making sure Fabio Quagliarella takes the Capocannoniere title.

Parma are looking to improve on their home form, as they’ve won just one of their last five home matches, while Sampdoria have been quite patchy on the road with two wins in five attempts.

The Gialloblu are still without Roberto Inglese, Jonathan Biabiany and Alberto Grassi, while Fabio Ceravolo and Roberto Gagliolo join the absentee list.

The Disciplinary Commission came down hard on Samp this week, as Lorenzo Tonelli, Jacopo Sala and Gaston Ramirez are suspended. Joachim Andersen is still not 100 per cent fit, so Bartosz Bereszynski returns to the back four and Ricky Saponara takes the trequartista role.

While Parma have drawn four games in a row, Sampdoria are without a stalemate in 14 rounds.

Genoa vs Roma

Stadio Cumunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Sunday, 05-05-2019 @7pm

Roma aim to make the most of Genoa’s poor form to stay in the race for a Champions League spot.

Genoa’s last victory was all the way back on March 17, when they surprisingly defeated Juventus 2-0 at Marassi. They have only picked up two points since, draws with Napoli and SPAL.

This poor run of form has sent Genoa right into the middle of the fight to avoid relegation. They are currently only six points clear of Empoli with four matches to go.

Roma haven’t lost since March 31, a 4-1 home humiliation to Napoli, picking up 11 points from an available 15. They were for a few hours in that fourth Champions League spot last week, before Atalanta completed their fixtures, but remain just one point behind, already two clear of Torino and Milan.

Caretaker Coach Claudio Ranieri has said that he does not expect to be manager at the capital club next season, but does want to leave the club with a top four finish in Serie A.

The home side are expected to miss Luca Mazzitelli, Andrea Favilli, Stefano Sturaro and Oscar Hiljemark to injury. Gianluca Lapadula seems to have finally found some physical fitness and should lead the attack with Christian Kouame, leaving Goran Pandev and ex-Roma forward Tonny Sanabria on the bench.

Daniele De Rossi and Davide Santon remain on the Roma treatment table, with Justin Kluivert struggling due to a muscular issue. It remains to be seen if Javier Pastore will get the nod again after his impressive performance – and goal – against Cagliari.

Genoa need a win to all but confirm their spot in Serie A for next season, while Roma want the three points to qualify for the Champions League. It will be gritty, but Roma should come out on top.

Roma are unbeaten against Genoa since a 1-0 result here in May 2014, followed by eight victories and a draw. However, the 4-3 loss at Marassi in February 2011 was Ranieri’s last match at the club, prompting his dismissal.

Napoli vs Cagliari

Stadio San Paolo, Naples

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

Napoli are eager to end their negative home streak, especially as Cagliari have just one point from their last seven San Paolo visits.

The Partenopei have already mathematically secured their Champions League qualification and are eight points clear of third-placed Inter. This is despite a recent downturn in form that has seen Carlo Ancelotti’s men lose motivation and confidence.

Cagliari are 11 points above Empoli, who occupy the last relegation spot and Gli Isolani have virtually sealed their place in next season’s campaign.

Napoli’s season has really come unstuck recently, especially after their limp Europa League quarter-final elimination at the hands of Arsenal. After being knocked out in the group stages of the Champions League, all and sundry involved with the club had set Europe’s second tier competition as a priority. However, they were held scoreless by the Londoners, losing 3-0 on aggregate. Carlo Ancelotti has maintained that his tenure is about the long term, so he will most likely be using the remaining Serie A fixtures to try out a few different formations with a view to next year.

With their status in mid-table settled and away form being mediocre at best, it’s safe to say that not much can be expected of the Casteddu, except simply professional pride. Maybe their Coach Rolando Maran might himself use this opportunity for a few players who have not played much this season.

Leonardo Pavoletti will be particularly eager to make his mark, having managed just six Serie A appearances in the Napoli jersey, never scoring a top flight goal for them.

It’s safe to say that Napoli will be the much more pro-active team, looking to take the attack to their visitors and entertain the crowd at the San Paolo, who at times this season have been fairly critical of the squad. The elimination in Europe, failure in the Coppa Italia and no real challenge to Juventus in the league has led certain sections of the fanbase to protest at the club’s management, with long-time servant Jose Callejon having his shirt thrown back at him after the club’s 2-0 win over Frosinone last round.

Something is needed to appease the fans, as Napoli have one point from their last two Serie A home fixtures and could go winless for three rounds in a row for the first time since March 2010.

Napoli are unbeaten against Cagliari since a 0-2 defeat in Sardinia in April 2009, followed by 12 wins and five draws, including the last six victories in a row.

AC Milan vs Bologna

Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan

Monday, 06-05-2019 @9:30pm

Milan put their faith behind Gennaro Gattuso despite sliding from fourth to seventh place, but they host Sinisa Mihajlovic’s on-form Bologna in another potential banana skin.

After a crucial defeat to Torino, Milan will be desperate to get back to winning ways if they want to keep up with the race for a Champions League spot.

The Rossoneri recorded only one win in their last seven Serie A fixtures, losing four of them, and crashed out of the Coppa Italia semi-final to Lazio. In one weekend, they went from Champions League spot to being out of Europe entirely.

A crisis summit resulted in the club keeping its faith with Gattuso until the end of the season and he put his foot down on Wednesday by ordering the squad into a five-day training retreat to prepare for the Bologna match. The final straw was Tiemoue Bakayoko turning up an hour late because his car had run out of petrol.

Sinisa Mihajlovic knows all about the problems at Milan, as he was fired in April 2016, but has transformed the fortunes of Bologna since replacing Pippo Inzaghi (another ex-Rossoneri Coach) in late January.

Bologna came from behind to beat Empoli 3-1 at the weekend, with the team moving one step closer to securing Serie A survival after four wins in their last six fixtures against Empoli, Sampdoria, Chievo and Sassuolo.

To make matters worse for Gattuso, he’ll be without captain Alessio Romagnoli due to suspension, as he was sent off against Torino for sarcastically applauding the referee. Davide Calabria and Giacomo Bonaventura are long-term absentees, with Andrea Conti and Ivan Strinic also carrying knocks.

It’s rumoured Suso could be dropped to make way for Lucas Paqueta in a more advanced role, allowing Krzysztof Piatek and Patrick Cutrone to start together. Piatek was surprisingly benched for last week’s showdown with Torino and it’s highly unlikely Gattuso will risk that again.

Bologna have Ibrahima Mbaye and Roberto Soriano suspended, with Federico Mattiello on the treatment table. Blerim Dzemaili could therefore move into a trequartista role, leaving Erik Pulgar and ex-Milan midfielder Andrea Poli to protect the defence. Riccardo Orsolini was on sparkling form against Empoli and will be eager to stretch his legs against a makeshift Milan defence.

Bologna have won only one of their last 18 Serie A meetings with Milan, drawing five and losing 12. They scored only twice in the most recent six encounters.

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