Brescia vs Lazio
Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia
Sunday, 05-01-2020 @2:30pm
Lazio can only hope the Christmas break didn’t affect their extraordinary momentum as they take on Mario Balotelli’s Brescia.
The Biancocelesti are the form side in Italy right now, culminating a fantastic 2019 with their eighth consecutive Serie A victory and beating Juventus 3-1 to win the Supercoppa Italiana. Simone Inzaghi is the only coach to have beaten Maurizio Sarri on the Juventus bench and he’s done it twice in the last month.
That run leaves the Aquile just six points off joint leaders Juve and Inter, with a game in hand against Hellas Verona to be played in February. They are also out of the Europa League, so can focus all their efforts on finally snatching a top four spot in Serie A.
The Supercoppa was not without cost, as bookings for Lucas Leiva and Luis Alberto carry over to the League, meaning they are both suspended at the Stadio Rigamonti. Adam Marusic, Patric, Jordan Lukaku and Denis Vavro are also unavailable, with Danilo Cataldi fighting to be fit in time to step into the midfield.
Brescia ended 2019 in the relegation zone, as the return of Eugenio Corini to the bench did give a brief respite with back-to-back victories over SPAL and Lecce. It was business as usual with their 2-0 defeat to Sassuolo on December 18, a rescheduled Week 7 fixture, followed by the 1-1 draw at Parma. That result at the Tardini was particularly galling, as Balotelli was convinced he’d done enough to win it until Alberto Grassi’s last-gasp equaliser.
Daniele Dessena is the only remaining injury absentee, but Ernesto Torregrossa is expected to return as the partner to Balotelli, especially after some shocking Alfredo Donnarumma misses. Sandro Tonali will have to turn on the midfield magic to get the Rondinelle flying again.
Coach Corini is suspended following his dismissal for dissent against Parma, so his assistant will be on the bench.
Lazio could hit nine consecutive Serie A victories for only the second time in their history after a run in February 1999.
SPAL vs Hellas Verona
Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara
Sunday, 05-01-2020 @5pm
SPAL managed to claw themselves off the foot of the table with a shock victory at Torino and want another upset with Hellas Verona.
The club from Ferrara looked like it would fire coach Leonardo Semplici after a dismal run of three draws from nine rounds, but faith paid off with a 2-1 win away to Torino just before the Christmas break. That allowed them to leapfrog Genoa into penultimate position, so still very much in danger, but with signs of life.
Verona are in need of a boost now, as although they remain comfortably mid-table thanks to a remarkably good start to the season, the defensive weaknesses have been damaging of late. Unlucky back-to-back defeats to Roma and Atalanta were followed by an incredible fightback from 3-0 down to hold Torino 3-3, scoring all their goals in the final 21 minutes.
That Week 16 match is their most recent, as the Week 17 fixture with Lazio has been rescheduled to February 5 due to Supercoppa Italiana commitments.
Hellas have no problems finding the net, scoring at least once in each of their last seven Serie A games, but also kept only two clean sheets in the same period.
The Verona defence is due to be even more exposed this time around, as Napoli-bound battling midfielder Sofyan Amrabat is suspended and will be very sorely missed. Eddie Salcedo, Daniel Bessa, Lubomir Tupta and Alan Empereur are injured, but the good news is that Emmanuel Badu is finally available six months after the scare of a blood clot in his lungs during pre-season training.
SPAL are missing Arkadiusz Reca, Marco D’Alessandro, Mohamed Fares and Marko Jankovic. Federico Di Francesco and Gabriel Strefezza are the favourites to support hitman Andrea Petagna, leaving Sergio Floccari and Alberto Paloschi on the bench.
Verona have never beaten SPAL in the top flight, managing only two draws and as many defeats. However, in all four of those Serie A meetings, both teams have been on target.
Genoa vs Sassuolo
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sunday, 05-01-2020 @8pm
Genoa begin 2020 with their third coach of the campaign and we’re not even halfway through the season yet, as Davide Nicola debuts against Sassuolo.
The Grifone are rock bottom of the Serie A table, without a win in eight rounds and a textbook example of how not to run a football club. President Enrico Preziosi fired Aurelio Andreazzoli in October, then brought in Thiago Motta only to dismiss him over Christmas too. Several candidates were floated, including the potential fourth spell under Davide Ballardini, before the job was given to Nicola. He at least should get the fans onside, representing Genoa in his playing career.
As is also now typical for this club, the January transfer window is being used to completely overhaul the squad. Mattia Perin has returned 18 months after his transfer to Juventus, where he managed only nine competitive appearances, for a six-month loan at his old hunting ground of Marassi. Mattia Destro also comes in from Bologna, while Valon Behrami has signed on as a free agent, having not played since October. It remains to be seen whether Perin will go straight into the starting XI or leave Ionut Radu one more game in goal.
Christian Kouame and Lukas Lerager are still out injured, but Goran Pandev returns from suspension to bolster the attack after their 4-0 embarrassment at Inter.
Nicola is expected to adopt a 3-5-2 formation, with Pandev and Andrea Pinamonti upfront, Stefano Sturaro and Cristian Zapata returning from injury.
Sassuolo have been a model of consistency in comparison to Genoa, but will be smarting after their most recent result. The Neroverdi are without a victory in five rounds, suffering a last-gasp defeat to Napoli going into the Christmas break. The situation isn’t as bad as it looks, though, because the last few matches have shown more than a few positive moments. It was another stoppage-time defeat to Lazio, followed by creditable draws with Juventus, Cagliari and Milan.
Domenico Berardi remains a major injury doubt, having missed the Napoli game, with Marlon, Gregoire Defrel and Vlad Chiriches out of action. Filip Djuricic, Hamed Junior Traore and Jeremie Boga should fan out in support of Francesco Caputo, with Francesco Magnanelli now fully fit in midfield. Andrea Consigli can take back his spot in goal, having been out since the end of November with a muscular injury.
Roma vs Torino
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Sunday, 05-01-2020 @10:45pm
Roma are on sparkling form and can consolidate their top four status against a weakened Torino with Walter Mazzarri under pressure.
The Giallorossi have really hit a groove under coach Paulo Fonseca, winning four of their last five Serie A games and drawing the other with joint leaders Inter. Their 4-1 demolition of Fiorentina ended 2019 on a high, not to mention terminating Vincenzo Montella’s Viola career, and confirmed the entertaining football we’ve seen lately from the Lupi.
Enthusiasm around the club is also boosted by confirmation of takeover negotiations with Texan billionaire Dan Friedkin, who could purchase AS Roma from James Pallotta by the end of the month.
More good news comes from the medical staff, as the treatment room is finally starting to empty out. Only Javier Pastore, Davide Santon, Bryan Cristante, Davide Zappacosta and Antonio Mirante remain, while Justin Kluivert requires a fitness test. Cengiz Under and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are going to find it difficult to break back into the starting XI, as Nicolò Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Diego Perotti are gelling so well in support of Edin Dzeko.
Torino, on the other hand, are in crisis mode and fans continue to call for Mazzarri’s head. Questions were already being asked when they managed to throw away a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Hellas Verona, but losing at home to bottom of the table SPAL was difficult to swallow.
Gelson Bremer was sent off in that match and is therefore suspended here, along with Cristian Ansaldi, while Iago Falque, Lyanco, Simone Edera, Daniele Baselli and Vittorio Parigini are out of action. The squad is decimated, so Mazzarri has precious few choices to make at the Stadio Olimpico. Alex Berenguer and Simone Verdi are expected to support Andrea Belotti, leaving Simone Zaza on the bench, while Diego Laxalt steps in for Ansaldi.
Torino have won only two of their last 32 Serie A meetings with Roma, home and away, along with nine draws and 21 defeats. That includes nine consecutive defeats at the Stadio Olimpico, conceding 27 goals in that period.
-Bologna vs Fiorentina @2:30pm
-Atalanta vs Parma @5pm
-Juventus vs Cagliari @5pm
-AC Milan vs Sampdoria @5pm
-Lecce vs Udinese @8pm
-Napoli vs Inter Milan @10:45pm