Atalanta vs Hellas Verona
Gewiss Stadium, Bergamo
Saturday, 07-12-2019 @5pm
Atalanta are showing signs of slowing down in their chase for a Champions League spot, so a win could prove essential against tenacious Verona.
The Bergamaschi managed only five points in their last five matches, with coach Gian Piero Gasperini admitting the team’s form has been affected by their European duties. La Dea, nonetheless, still have a decent chance of reaching the last 16 in the Champions League, but that means they have to beat Shakhtar Donetsk and hope already-qualified Manchester City do not lose against Dinamo Zagreb.
Fresh from a home defeat against Roma, Hellas Verona and their mean defence will now face Serie A’s most prolific attack. Last year, their games with Atalanta finished in 5-0 and 3-0 defeats, although Fabio Pecchia was at the helm of Verona back then.
Atalanta were dealt a heavy blow this week when Colombian striker Duvan Zapata announced there is no precise date for his return, the injury proving “very serious and complicated”. The 28-year-old has been sidelined with an injury to a thigh tendon, picked up while on international duty in October.
Although many expected Zapata to be fit for the match against Brescia last week, the Colombian has now confirmed he might not even be back in time to face Shakhtar.
Gasperini’s other injury worries concern Marten de Roon and Simon Kjaer, who trained separately from the rest of the team. The Danish defender is almost certain to miss the match against Verona.
Ivan Juric is still uncertain regarding Marash Kumbulla, Daniel Bessa and Lubomir Tupta, with all set for further evaluation in upcoming training sessions. Koray Gunter will miss out due to suspension.
Verona have won only one of their last 15 Serie A trips to Atalanta, 2-1 in 2014, along with eight defeats and six draws.
Udinese vs Napoli
Dacia Arena, Udine
Napoli begin a run of games that could decide their season on Saturday, when they travel to an Udinese side on a high from their cup exploits.
A campaign that promised so much has so far disappointed in equal measure, with Napoli on a run of eight matches without a win, the last of which came back in mid-October.
The Partenopei’s problems go way beyond the pitch as their players are still coming to terms with being fined by President Aurelio De Laurentiis after they refused to take part in a punitive training retreat.
However, there were no such qualms when Carlo Ancelotti decided to place them ‘in ritiro’ leading up this game, amidst mounting speculation about the coach’s future.
It is rumoured poor results against Udinese and at home to Racing Genk in the Champions League next week could cost Carletto his job and, in turn, write off the club’s season.
Their task has been made all the more difficult by Allan, Arkadiusz Milik, Faouzi Ghoulam all training alone yesterday, while Kevin Malcuit is a long-term casualty and Dries Mertens is struggling with flu.
Udinese, meanwhile, have suffered back-to-back Serie A defeats but thrashed Bologna 4-0 last night to book a Coppa Italia last-16 date with Juventus.
Victory over Napoli could move them seven points clear of the relegation zone, and they have only Mato Jajalo and Watford loanee Ken Sema to assess before the match.
Napoli have won all of their last three trips to Dacia Arena.
Lazio vs Juventus
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Saturday, 07-12-2019 @10:45pm
Lazio are on a spectacular run of six consecutive Serie A victories and sit in third place as they host a Juventus side that dropped into second.
These teams will meet again later this month in the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, as Coppa Italia holders and Scudetto winners respectively.
With 33 goals to their name, Simone Inzaghi’s side are the top scorers in Serie A, and they have an impressive defensive record to match it, with only 14 conceded. A full three points against the Turin giants would reinforce their credentials as genuine top four challengers, so with Inter and Roma also clashing this weekend, it could throw the race for the Champions League places, and title, wide open.
The Aquile are the form side at the moment with six wins on the bounce. Ciro Immobile netted twice to make it 17 goals in just 14 Serie A games this season. Influential play maker Luis Alberto continued his fine form, as he added a goal from the penalty spot to his nine season assists, and the Rome side will be full of confidence heading into this game that they can upset Sarri’s side.
Lazio will be without Jordan Lukaku, Patric, Valon Berisha and Adam Marusic. Joaquin Correa should get the nod rather than Felipe Caicedo alongside Capocannoniere Immobile.
Juventus will be keen to bounce back from last week’s disappointing draw against Sassuolo, where the 2-2 draw didn’t represent the Bianconeri’s dominance. A combination of errors from Matthijs De Ligt and Gianluigi Buffon gifted Sassuolo a goal, whilst it was an extremely wasteful Juventus side in front of goal, racking up an xG of 4.35 compared to Sassuolo’s 0.70. The draw ended a run of four straight league victories, and dropped Juventus down to second.
Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled for form in recent weeks, and the pressure will be on the Portuguese forward to perform in such a titanic clash. Averaging 6.22 shots per 90 minutes, he hasn’t been afraid to go for goal, and with the media attention building round his performances, he will be keen to perform in the big game once again.
Juventus are without long-term absentees Giorgio Chiellini and Marko Pjaca, whilst Adrien Rabiot and Douglas Costa are also expected to miss out. Sami Khedira has been ruled out until January, as the injuries mount for Sarri’s side.
Simone Inzaghi has never beaten Maurizio Sarri, while Lazio have not beaten Juventus in Serie A since 2003, managing three draws from 11 encounters.
Lecce vs Genoa
Stadio Comunale Via del Mare, Lecce
Sunday, 08-12-2019 @2:30pm
This could turn out to be a massive result in the race to avoid relegation, as Genoa find themselves in the bottom three visiting surprise outfit Lecce.
The Salentini clearly had their minds on this match when playing the Coppa Italia on Tuesday night, putting out a depleted side and losing 5-1 to SPAL.
They can take confidence however in Serie A after their remarkable 0-1 away victory in Florence, which propelled them into joint 14th place with Sassuolo and Udinese. They will fancy their chances of registering their first home win of the season against a struggling Genoa side, who sit in the drop zone.
Rookie coach Thiago Motta is under serious pressure to get a result in this one and scraping through their own Coppa Italia tie 3-2 against Serie B outfit Ascoli has done little to inspire confidence.
The Champions League winner will need to use all his experience to pull something out the bag and take the Grifone out of the drop zone. They will also hope that fellow city rivals Sampdoria are defeated for that to happen.
Genoa struck the woodwork twice against Torino, but are really struggling to hit the net in general with the injury to Christian Kouame. Cristian Zapata is also unavailable and will be a blow to the defence.
Fabio Liverani was delighted with the win in Florence, claiming that it will bring his players more self-esteem and awareness of their own capabilities. He also confirmed that Marco Mancosu, Luka Dumancic, Diego Farias and Biagio Meccariello will probably all be out and could be replaced by four Primavera players. The coach was saying he wanted another victory before facing their next opponents Milan.
Gianluca Lapadula is still suspended after his sending off in the Cagliari match. Lecce should start with Yevhen Shakhov behind Filippo Falco and Khouma Babacar, who came in for some stick recently from the manager for his finishing.
The visitors should start with Goran Pandev and Kevin Agudelo supporting Andrea Pinamonti.
The only time Lecce beat Genoa in Serie A was back in 1990, along with four draws and seven defeats, home and away.
Sassuolo vs Cagliari
MAPEI Stadium, Reggio nell’Emilia
Sunday, 08-12-2019 @5pm
Cagliari keep on surprising, as their dramatic 4-3 thriller against Sampdoria kept them in joint fourth, but Sassuolo are fresh from stalling Juventus.
The Neroverdi have only won once in their last six matches between league and cup competitions, which was a 3-1 home victory against Bologna in November.
However, Roberto De Zerbi’s men put in a good performance in Turin and came away with a 2-2 draw after Cristiano Ronaldo equalised from the penalty spot to save the Old Lady’s blushes. A delicate lob from Ivory Coast winger Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo’s seventh league goal of the season had put the Emilia-Romagna club 2-1 up.
Despite taking points off the Bianconeri for the first time away from home in Serie A, Sassuolo failed to capitalise on that good result by being knocked out of the Coppa Italia when they were defeated 2-1 by Perugia.
De Zerbi has several injury concerns going into this game with defenders Gianmarco Ferrari and Vlad Chiriches ruled out, while his attacking options are limited, as both Domenico Berardi and Gregoire Defrel are expected to be out until the new year.
Andrea Consigli is injured and Gianluca Pegolo not fully fit, so we could see 18-year-old Stefano Turati start again in goal after his impressive debut against Juve.
Cagliari, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last 12 league matches, since losing 2-1 at home to Inter at the start of September. The Isolani have won eight times during that run, drawing the other four.
The Rossoblu came from 3-1 down at home against Sampdoria in their last outing to win 4-3 in a remarkable game that saw Alberto Cerri’s 96th-minute goal seal the comeback and give his side the three points.
Rolando Maran’s men faced the same opposition midweek at home in the Coppa Italia, emerging with a 2-1 victory despite rotating the squad.
Robin Olsen is still sitting out a lengthy ban following his altercation with Lecce striker Gianluca Lapadula in their 2-2 draw. First choice ‘keeper Alessio Cragno is a long-term injury absentee, so Brazilian veteran Rafael will again come in to play between the sticks. Striker Leonardo Pavoletti is ruled out until the spring, while Valter Birsa is also on the treatment table, but Fabrizio Cacciatore returns from suspension.
Sassuolo love to keep possession, while Cagliari are brimming with confidence, so expect an open and entertaining game.
Cagliari have never won at Sassuolo in Serie A, managing three draws and two defeats here.
SPAL vs Brescia
Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara
Sunday, 08-12-2019 @5pm
The bottom two sides will go head to head when SPAL lock horns with Brescia on Sunday, as Eugenio Corini returns to the Rondinelle bench.
With crushing inevitability, Brescia President Massimo Cellino changed his mind and recalled Corini just a month after the Fabio Grosso experiment failed miserably. In an attempt to reverse their fortunes, the newly promoted side opted to fire Corini and bring in the 2006 World Cup winner, only to lose all three of their matches, failing to score in the process, and so they have chosen to go back to square one.
The gamble they took on bringing in Mario Balotelli has also backfired, as the enigmatic striker has made more headlines for issues off the pitch than his contributions on it, and has not been able to make the impact that the club had hoped. Brescia have scored just a measly 10 goals so far this season, whilst shipping 26 in what has been a torrid term back in the top flight, but their upcoming hosts have not fared that much better, either.
With nine goals scored so far, SPAL’s attack are the joint-worst performing in the league, alongside Udinese. The hosts have conceded 21 times, five fewer than Brescia, so this could be an opportunity for them to get some points on the board – especially if they can get their attack up and running like they did in their recent 5-1 Coppa Italia victory against Lecce.
One would be forgiven for thinking that was an entirely different team, as Leonardo Semplici’s squad put five past their opponents midweek, but will they be able to replicate the same kind of performance on Sunday evening as they look to end their poor run of form in the league?
SPAL are without Gabriel Strefezza, Jacopo Sala, Federico Di Francesco, Mohamed Fares and Marco D’Alessandro. Brescia have Daniele Dessena on the treatment table, while goalkeeper Jesse Joronen is a major doubt, so we could see Enrico Alfonso between the sticks.
Brescia has only beaten SPAL once in Serie A (D3, L2).
Torino vs Fiorentina
Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Torion
Sunday, 08-12-2019 @5pm
Torino host a struggling Fiorentina side who have lost three consecutive Serie A matches and Vincenzo Montella will be under pressure to secure a result.
Walter Mazzarri’s Torino have had an inconsistent season up to this point, as they currently lie in 10th place and eight points off a Europa League spot, but two wins from their last three games will provide some inspiration for the Granata.
Last week Torino showed their resilience with a 1-0 victory over Genoa at Stadio Luigi Ferraris with a 76th-minute header from Brazilian centre-back Bremer, having connected with Simone Verdi’s free-kick.
Torino will again be without star striker Andrea Belotti, who missed last weekend’s victory with a thigh injury, and news came out this week that it is worse than originally feared. Alex Berenguer is likely to keep his place against Fiorentina ahead of Simone Zaza, despite the lack of alternatives. Simone Edera will be out through suspension, whilst Iago Falque, Lyanco and Vincenzo Milico are all ruled out with injuries.
Fiorentina are desperate to find some positive form, as Montella finds himself in a precarious situation and rather than fighting for a European place, the Viola could find themselves in another relegation battle. The 1-0 loss at home to Lecce was unexpected despite their poor form and Fiorentina must do everything to avoid another defeat this weekend.
Fans will be sweating over the fitness of Federico Chiesa, who is expected to play from the start after muscular issues, but Franck Ribery and German Pezzella are certainly ruled out by injury.
The major issue for both sides this season has been finding the back of the net and capitalising on their chances in games. Fiorentina’s joint highest scorers are Gaetano Castrovilli, Nikola Milenkovic and Erick Pulgar on three goals. Much of their creativity in the final third relies upon Chiesa and Ribery, so with the Frenchman out this weekend, Montella will have to find a different strategy for the Viola.
Interestingly, visitors Fiorentina have scored in 19 of their last 20 meetings with Torino in Serie A and only lost on two occasions. This game could buck the trend for both sides this season, as the previous five times the Viola have visited Stadio Olimpico there have been 14 goals with an average 2.8 goals per match.
Fiorentina have lost only two of their last 20 Serie A meetings with Torino, home and away, winning 10 and drawing eight. They were both in Turin in 2015 and 2016.
Sampdoria vs Parma
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sunday, 08-12-2019 @8pm
Parma will have Napoli in their sights when they face Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria in Serie A on Sunday.
Despite just one win in their last six League games, Parma are just two points seventh-placed Napoli, who are faring even worse, without a Serie A victory since October 19.
A return to winning ways at the Tardini would not only see them possibly leapfrog the Partenopei, but it would also serve as a real statement of their intentions for a top-six finish.
The dazzling performances of Gervinho and wantaway winger Dejan Kulusevski have been the inspiration behind the Ducali’s bright start, and the pair are available against Samp.
However, fellow forwards Roberto Inglese and Yann Karamoah are still weeks away from returning.
Samp, meanwhile, saw a mini-revival under Ranieri ended by back-to-back defeats at Cagliari in the League and cup.
The former was particularly damning for the Blucerchiati as they proceeded to throw away a two-goal lead against the Sardinians.
Nonetheless, they will have been boosted by midfielder Karol Linetty completing 90 minutes as captain midweek, especially with Andrea Bertolacci not due back for another month.
Fabio Depaoli, Federico Bonazzoli and defender Bartosz Berezsynski are also sidelined, while Edgar Barreto is touch-and-go.
The last time these two sides played out a goalless draw was all the way back in 1990.
Bologna vs AC Milan
Stadio Renato Dall’Arra, Bologna
Sunday, 08-12-2019 @10:45pm
Only one point separates these teams going into the weekend, as Bologna and Milan are fresh from morale-boosting victories.
Both remain in the bottom half of the Serie A table after 14 rounds, closer to the relegation zone than the European places. There were some signs of improvement last week, as the Rossoneri secured their first victory under Stefano Pioli by beating Parma. As for the Felsinei, the comeback to conquer Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo came after coach Sinisa Mihajlovic spent all week in training with his squad, something he hadn’t been able to do since starting treatment for leukemia in July.
Pioli will be hoping to replicate the Parma performance against Bologna, as his young side controlled the game and kept their discipline and shape. Giacomo Bonaventura showed his ability pulling the strings in the midfield and should again start with Suso and Krzysztof Piatek. The Polish striker has only found the net three times this season, he has an expected goals (xG) figure of 6.26, which suggests he has been unlucky not to score more.
Lucas Paqueta missed the Parma game with injury, but should be back in the starting XI. Leo Duarte and Mattia Caldara remain on the absentee list.
Bologna have struggled defensively to date, conceding 23 times in 14 games, six more than the visitors Milan. Gary Medel is suspended for this clash, joining injured Roberto Soriano Federico Santander, Mitchell Dijks and possibly also Ladislav Krejci in the stands.
Milan have lost only one of their last 19 Serie A matches against Bologna (13W, 5D), a 1-0 setback in January 2016. At the time, the coach on the Rossoneri bench was Mihajlovic.
Milan are unbeaten at the Stadio Dall’Ara in Serie A since March 2002, leaving with nine victories and four draws.