Cagliari vs AC Milan
Sardegna Arena, Cagliari
Saturday, 11-01-2020 @5pm
Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to start his first game since his return to Milan, when the Rossoneri face a Cagliari desperate to bounce back from three consecutive defeats.
Lately, Cagliari have been a shadow of the team we saw during the first months of the season, and one point from the last four games has seen them struggle to reproduce the performances from an amazing start.
Rolando Maran’s men did well for 45 minutes against the reigning champions Juventus on Monday and captain Radja Nainggolan has urged his teammates to avoid making the same errors when Milan come to visit on Saturday.
The home side will probably continue in their familiar 4-3-2-1 and will most likely call on the same six players in the attack that faced Juventus.
After a poor second half leading to the pulsating 4-0 defeat in Turin, the same players should get a chance to revive themselves immediately, as they are limited in the middle of the park with Lucas Castro still struggling.
Forward Daniel Ragatzu should be back in contention after struggling with illness and could help out upfront if needed. Italy international Alessio Cragno is expected back this month to make Robin Olsen sweat over his place in the side, but the Swede will glove up to stop compatriot Ibrahimovic.
Milan are travelling to Sardinia without a win in three games and haven’t scored since their win against Bologna on December 8.
The introduction of Zlatan against Sampdoria couldn’t help them break down the Blucerchiati, but he’s expected to start the game, as Krzysztof Piatek has an average of just one goal every 297 minutes of football this season.
The Poland international is being linked with a move away from San Siro this month and the same goes for Spanish winger Suso, who should still be included in the starting line-up at the Sardegna Arena.
Stefano Pioli will be trusting his 4-3-3 formation to do the job against the Casteddu, and the only players out injured are Leo Duarte and Lucas Biglia.
Franck Kessie is expected to replace Rade Krunic in the midfield trio and ought to represent the only two changes – together with Zlatan for Piatek – from the XI starting the game against Samp on Monday.
Milan are 12th in the League ahead of their visit to sixth-placed Cagliari and are desperate to claim three points in Sardinia and make sure they cut some of the gap up to the European places.
A defeat will see them cemented in limbo, currently eight points above the relegation zone and seven behind this weekend’s opponents holding the last spot qualifying for the Europa League.
Milan have only lost only one of their last 31 Serie A meetings with Cagliari, home and away. Aside from that 2-1 result in May 2017, they won 23 and drew seven.
Lazio vs Napoli
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Saturday, 11-01-2020 @8pm
Lazio are seeking an all-time club record 10th consecutive Serie A victory, which could plunge Napoli into the bottom half of the table.
The Aquile are without doubt the form team in Italy right now, having won the Coppa Italia in May and followed that up with the Supercoppa Italiana last month, defeating Juventus 3-1 in Riyadh. Simone Inzaghi also equalled coach Sven Goran Eriksson’s 1999 club record of nine Serie A wins on the bounce and has to be a very good bet to reach double figures for the first time in their history.
Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva return from suspension, replaced on the naughty step by Marco Parolo, while Joaquin Correa needs a fitness test. If he misses out, then Felipe Caicedo will partner Neapolitan striker and current Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile.
Napoli sacked Carlo Ancelotti in December and have shown little sign of improvement under Gennaro Gattuso, who has lost two of his three games in charge, scraping a barely-deserved stoppage-time win over Sassuolo.
The new year started on the wrong foot, with a 3-1 home defeat to Inter that showed glaring gaps in defence and a midfield that is struggling to deal with the move to 4-3-3. Dries Mertens is still out of action with that recurring muscular issue, joined on the treatment table by Nikola Maksimovic, Faouzi Ghoulam and Kevin Malcuit.
Kalidou Koulibaly should be back in defence, at least for a spot on the bench, but Napoli are hesitant to risk a longer lay-off for the Senegal international. If he doesn’t start, then it’s again a choice between Sebastiano Luperto and moving Giovanni Di Lorenzo from right-back to central defence, which is the option Gattuso picked against Inter with mixed results.
Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne seem certain to keep their places, with Jose Callejon the favourite rather than Hirving Lozano on the right side of the trident.
Napoli have won their last five Serie A meetings with Lazio, home and away, and secured six consecutive victories at the Olimpico. The Biancocelesti’s most recent victory was 4-2 at the San Paolo in May 2015.
Inter Milan vs Atalanta
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan
Saturday, 11-01-2020 @10:45pm
Joint leaders Inter face one of their biggest tests of the season, as they host a revitalised Atalanta while missing two suspended key players.
Antonio Conte’s men swept Napoli aside 3-1 to keep up with Juventus at the top of the table for the dawn of 2020, but it came at a cost. Yellow cards at the Stadio San Paolo mean Milan Skriniar and Nicolò Barella will sit out bans on Saturday night, joining Danilo D’Ambrosio and Kwadwo Asamoah in the stands.
Atalanta, on the other hand, have a completely full squad at their disposal for probably the first time all term. Even Duvan Zapata made his comeback after three months, stepping off the bench during their 5-0 demolition of Parma. That was Atalanta’s second consecutive 5-0 result, after humiliating Milan by the same scoreline to close out 2019.
Gian Piero Gasperini is proving last season’s third-place finish, beating Inter to that slot, was no fluke. They even managed to progress to the Champions League Round of 16, something the Nerazzurri cannot boast, despite playing their home games at San Siro. It makes this something of an odd fixture for the two Lombardy rivals, as Atalanta consider this stadium to be their second home and will welcome Valencia here for the knockouts in February.
The fact remains, this squad is thin and the difference in performances when playing Champions League midweek football and only weekend Serie A outings is evident. Atalanta know this and will try to make the most of the January fixture list to climb back into the top four.
Luis Muriel has been off form lately, and Duvan Zapata is not ready to start, so we could see Josip Ilicic moved into a False 9 role with support from Papu Gomez and either Ruslan Malinovskyi or Mario Pasalic.
Inter are forced to reshuffle the defence entirely in the absence of Skriniar, so Alessandro Bastoni and Diego Godin could flank Stefan de Vrij. Stefano Sensi should finally be available from the start in midfield after his injury woes, with Atalanta youth product Roberto Gagliardini preferred to Matias Vecino.
There’s no shifting Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, as the pair have become inseparable upfront with 30 competitive goals between them this season.
Atalanta are unbeaten in their last three meetings with Inter, a pair of 0-0 draws and a 4-1 triumph in Bergamo. However, their last away victory was 2-1 in March 2014, followed by four straight defeats and last season’s stalemate.
-Udinese vs Sassuolo @2:30pm
-Fiorentina vs SPAL @5pm
-Sampdoria vs Brescia @5pm
-Torino vs Bologna @5pm
-Hellas Verona vs Genoa @8pm
-Roma vs Juventus @10:45pm
-Parma vs Lecce @10:45pm