Udinese vs Cagliari
Darcia Arena, Udine
Saturday, 21-12-2019 @5pm
Cagliari saw their 13-match unbeaten streak come to an end with a stoppage-time defeat to Lazio, so will be fired up and eager to take it out on Udinese.
The Sardinians were heading towards fourth place and a stunning victory over Lazio, but conceded twice in seven and a half minutes of stoppages for an ill-tempered home loss. Regardless, Rolando Maran’s men put in a strong overall performance and are still in fifth place and their confidence might not have been dented by the result.
Nahitan Nandez joins Robin Olsen on the naughty step, while Valter Birsa, Lucas Castro, Luca Ceppitelli, Leonardo Pavoletti and Alessio Cragno are still out injured. Marko Rog returns from his ban to bolster the midfield, with Radja Nainggolan supporting Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone.
Udinese picked up two points from the last five rounds and remain in limbo, as after Igor Tudor was sacked, caretaker manager Luca Gotti continues to insist he doesn’t want the job full-time and the club seems no closer to finding a replacement. They sit one point clear of the relegation zone and it is a situation that cannot continue for much longer.
Samir had knee surgery this week, so is on the treatment table along with Ken Sema and Mato Jajalo. Stefano Okaka and Kevin Lasagna are expected to lead the way in a 3-5-2 formation that to all intents and purposes will be a five-man defence. Defend and counter is the objective for the Friulani.
These teams have not shared the spoils since a 2-2 draw in Udine in January 2015, followed by four Cagliari victories and three Udinese successes.
Inter Milan vs Genoa
Guiseppe Meazza Stadium, Milan
Saturday, 21-12-2019 @8pm
Inter need a victory to keep up with joint leaders Juventus, but are forced to do without Lautaro Martinez and Marcelo Brozovic, while Thiago Motta fights for his Genoa job.
Juve already won their game 2-1 away to Sampdoria on Wednesday evening, so the pressure is on Antonio Conte’s men to respond. The Nerazzurri already lost sole leadership of Serie A after a last-gasp 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, conceding Dusan Vlahovic’s stoppage-time stunner. It was their second league stalemate in a row after a 0-0 with Roma.
Conte noted after that game that fatigue was getting to his players, just days after their Champions League exit with defeat to Barcelona. He’ll have an even smaller squad to choose from this weekend, as Lautaro Martinez and Brozovic are both suspended, with Stefano Sensi, Nicolò Barella, Roberto Gagliardini, Alexis Sanchez and Kwadwo Asamoah injured.
As things stand, it looks as if teenager Sebastiano Esposito will be the partner to Romelu Lukaku rather than Matteo Politano, while Antonio Candreva is not 100 per cent fit either. In midfield, we could see the first Serie A start for youth team player Lucien Agoume, another 17-year-old who has made only one senior appearance and that was for six minutes.
Genoa will certainly not be short of motivation either. They are in the relegation zone after an unlucky 1-0 defeat to local rivals Sampdoria, a game they largely dominated without finishing, and coach Thiago Motta – here facing his old club – is already being threatened with the sack. It’d be quite a twist considering he only came in to replace fired Aurelio Andreazzoli on October 22, overseeing two wins, three draws and four defeats.
Goran Pandev continues his two-match ban and cannot face his former club, while Christian Kouame, Cristian Zapata, Stefano Sturaro and Lukas Lerager are injured.
Thiago Motta has shown himself to be a tactical chameleon, so should move to a 3-5-1-1 formation that mirrors Conte’s style. Kevin Agudelo and Inter-owned Andrea Pinamonti are the favourites to start upfront, with a choice between Peter Ankersen and Marko Pajac on the left wing.
Genoa have only ever won four of their 52 Serie A trips to San Siro against Inter, the most recent was 3-1 all the way back in March 1994. They’ve lost their last six in a row here, scoring one goal and conceding 14.
Torino vs SPAL
Stadio Olimpico Grand Torino, Torino
Saturday, 21-12-2019 @10:45pm
Torino incredibly fumbled a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Verona, but have Andrea Belotti back as they host bottom of the table SPAL.
The Granata had seemingly hit their groove and taken the pressure off coach Walter Mazzarri with a positive run of results, and were leading 3-0 at the Stadio Bentegodi, but threw it all away for a six-goal thriller. Nonetheless, they are unbeaten in three, having previously beaten Genoa and Fiorentina, so are on the right track.
Belotti returns from injury and should be fit to start, but Iago Falque, Simone Edera, Vittorio Parigini, Lyanco and Kevin Bonifazi are on the treatment table.
SPAL are propping up the Serie A standings after just two wins – the most recent on October 5 – three draws and 11 defeats. They scraped only three points in their last nine games and lost three on the bounce. Nonetheless, the club has decided to stick with coach Leonardo Semplici, the man who took them from Serie C to the top flight, although it remains to be seen how long that loyalty will last.
Arkadiusz Reca, Mohamed Fares and Marco D’Alessandro are still on the treatment table, but Federico Di Francesco should be back to support Andrea Petagna. The performance against Roma was by no means poor, as they had taken the lead through a Petagna penalty, but fell apart in the second half.
SPAL have lost each of their last 10 Serie A trips to Torino, a run that stretches back to the only victory, 1-0 in November 1957.
Serie A fixtures – Sunday, 22-12-2019
-Atalanta vs AC Milan @2:30pm
-Lecce vs Bologna @5pm
-Parma vs Brescia @5pm
-Sassuolo vs Napoli @10:45pm