AC Milan vs Udinese
Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, 19-01-2020 @2:30pm
Milan are growing in confidence after two straight wins in all competition and will play an in-form Udinese with only one point separating them.
Stefano Pioli must have been happy to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic find the net in his first full game after the Swedish superstar returned to the Rossoneri and will be hoping to see the 38-year-old inspire the Diavolo to another important win in what looks like the initial phase of a revival.
But the Friuli side have a great record against Milan and the reverse fixture ended in a 1-0 win for the Bianconeri in Udine. They can take confidence from that match, when they look to build on a convincing winning streak of three consecutive matches in the League.
Rodrigo scored the only goal when the two sides met in Udine and it is still his only goal in Italy, while it’s also fair to say the Rossoneri have shown inconsistency against the Zebrette at San Siro. They’ve won one each and drawn one in their three last meetings in Lombardy.
Leo Duarte is not expected back until late Match this year, while Lucas Biglia is in doubt, but Gianluigi Donnarumma should return after a slight muscular issue. They seem transformed since moving to a 4-4-2 formation, as it also worked well in the midweek 3-0 Coppa Italia victory over SPAL. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao were rested for that game, but should reunite to start together here.
Simon Kjaer made his debut in the Coppa, but Mateo Musacchio is expected to continue next to Alessio Romagnoli in the heart of the defence.
Udinese have been inspired by Rodrigo De Paul lately and picked up another big win against Sassuolo at the Dacia Arena last time. Their win away to Lecce on their return to action after the break was the first success on the road since November 3, and they will have to keep up their great form after back-to-back clean sheets.
After the success against Sassuolo, Luca Gotti should continue with Kevin Lasagna and Stefano Okaka up front in a 3-5-2.
They were crushed 4-0 by Juventus in the Coppa Italia midweek, but made numerous changes to focus their attention on this weekend’s game.
Milan played three competitive games without conceding in 2020 and the it might be a very tight and tactical affair at San Siro.
Milan and Udinese have kept seven clean sheets in Serie A this season, on a par with leaders Inter.
Brescia vs Cagliari
Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia
Sunday, 19-01-2020 @5pm
This could be a difficult one to call, as both Brescia and Cagliari are on dire form with confidence and their standing in the table slipping rapidly.
The Sardinians have gone from surprise outfit and contenders for the top four to a run of four consecutive defeats, five including the 4-1 Coppa Italia thrashing at the hands of Inter midweek. They are without a victory since scraping a 4-3 against Sampdoria on December 2, managing only one point.
Brescia aren’t doing much better, as the boost received by the return of Eugenio Corini in place of Fabio Grosso has dissipated. They were unlucky to be held by a last-gasp Parma equaliser at the Tardini, then capitulated in stoppages to Lazio and were demolished 5-1 by Samp.
Sandro Tonali and Andrea Cistana were suspended last week and return for the Rondinelle, but Dimitri Bisoli is on the naughty step instead. It’s reported they could throw new signing Simon Skrabb straight into the starting XI, the Finland international acting as trequartista behind Mario Balotelli and Ernesto Torregrossa.
As for Cagliari, Fabrizio Cacciatore, Luca Ceppitelli and Leonardo Pavoletti are still out of action. They’ve scored two goals in the last four Serie A games, conceding 10 during that period. Giovanni Simeone and Joao Pedro were never the most consistent goal-scorers and their early season form has dried up completely, with Radja Nainggolan only able to do so much when big chances are not being finished off. Simone has one goal in his last seven Serie A outings. Alberto Cerri and Daniele Ragatzu do not pose them much threat in terms of the starting XI, so options are limited for Rolando Maran.
Cagliari have won 12 of their total 19 top flight encounters with Brescia, home and away, drawing two and losing five.
Bologna vs Hellas Verona
Stadio Renato Dall’Ara
Sunday, 19-01-2020 @5pm
Hellas Verona are doing remarkably well, sitting in ninth place with a game in hand, but Bologna’s weakness in front of goal is becoming a problem.
Ivan Juric is following in the footsteps of his mentor Gian Piero Gasperini by taking Verona to mid-table with a ferocious pressing game and upsetting far bigger clubs. They picked up seven points in the last three rounds against Torino, SPAL and Genoa, scoring seven goals and conceding four.
Bologna, on the other hand, remain frustratingly inconsistent and sorely lacking a real hitman. The issue was evident in particular last week, when Rodrigo Palacio wasted several massive chances in a 1-0 defeat to Torino. Musa Barrow has arrived from Atalanta, although it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to start.
Ladislav Krejci, Stefano Denswil, Mitchell Dijks and Gary Medel are out injured for the hosts, so the midfield is very much up in the air. New purchase Nico Dominguez impressed on his debut off the bench last time and could well start, with Jerdy Schouten and Andrea Poli battling for the other spot.
Verona continue to miss Daniel Bessa, Eddie Salcedo and Alan Empereur, but the use of Valerio Verre as a False 9 backed by Matteo Pessina and Mattia Zaccagni worked well against Genoa, so Samuele Di Carmine could again be on the bench. Giampaolo Pazzini is also an option to face off with fellow veteran Palacio, as is former Chievo striker Mariusz Stepinski.
Hellas Verona have 25 points after 18 matches, their best start to a Serie A season since 32 in 2013-14, when again they had just been promoted from Serie B.
Lecce vs Inter Milan
Stadio Comunale Via del Mare, Lecce
Antonio Conte will expect a response from his players after dropping two points in the title race last weekend and look to prolong Lecce’s winless streak at the Via del Mare.
Inter travel to Puglia trailing Juventus by two points at the top of Serie A, but will be faced with a side that are desperately in need of points to help their survival and stay among the elite of Italian football.
Fabio Liverani’s men lost 4-0 at the Giuseppe Meazza in the reverse fixture this campaign and the Giallorossi are still sweating over the fitness of Diego Farias and Evgenyi Shakhov – who will most likely be overlooked by the coach.
The home side will have to play their best game of the season to get away with points against Inter and another loss could see them drop into the relegation zone, as they currently sit 17th.
It seems unlikely that the Giallorossi will be able to upset Conte’s men, as they struggle to even to pick up points against the teams in the bottom half of the table. Liverani has revealed he will be trying to bring in some new faces to the Via del Mare this winter, when they are searching for their first points since an away game against Genoa on December 8.
Inter slipped up against La Dea last Sunday, but will be boosted by an injury list cleared of key members – an issue that made life difficult for the coach during the last few months of 2019.
Inter had Alexis Sanchez and Nicolò Barella back in the starting line-up during the last 16 of the Coppa Italia this week and with Stefano Sensi also among the recovered, only Danilo D’Ambrosio should be out of contention because of fitness problems.
Inter are led by a Romelu Lukaku who can’t stop scoring for his new club, joined by Lautaro Martinez in Conte’s preferred 3-5-2 formation. The lethal duo could spearhead the Nerazzurri for another big win when they will continue their head-to-head title battle with the Old Lady.
Romelu Lukaku’s first Inter goal came against Lecce in the 4-0 triumph earlier this campaign – last season, he only managed to score in both games against a single team once in the Premier League [Southampton].
Genoa vs Roma
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
It has not been a positive start to 2020 for either team, as Genoa are under their third coach of the season and Roma suffered back-to-back defeats.
The Giallorossi were more devastated by Nicolò Zaniolo’s serious knee injury than the loss to Juventus, seeing their star talent stretchered off in tears, ruled out for at least five to six months. He joins a list of absentees that includes Javier Pastore, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Davide Zappacosta and Federico Fazio. On top of all that, Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi are suspended for this trip to Marassi, leaving Coach Paulo Fonseca in an emergency situation.
It’s probably unwise to have sent left-back Leonardo Spinazzola to Inter in an exchange deal with Matteo Politano during this week, but the delays in completing the transfers due to extra fitness tests demanded by Antonio Conte put them in an even trickier position. Mert Cetin and Davide Santon are expected to fill in on the flanks, although another option would be moving to a three-man defence, something that had already been floated before the Juve game. Cengiz Under seems ready to come in for Zaniolo, with Bryan Cristante hoping to push his way back into the starting XI after a long injury lay-off.
Edin Dzeko was rested for Thursday’s relatively comfortable 2-0 Coppa Italia victory away to Parma, which saw Lorenzo Pellegrini take centre stage with both goals.
As for Genoa, it’s a rather familiar pattern for this chaotic campaign. Davide Nicola is their third coach of the season, he won on his debut – just as Thiago Motta had – with a performance fuelled more by determination than any genuine organisation. It was then followed by a 2-1 defeat at Hellas Verona, leaving the Grifone in the relegation zone.
Nicola has his fair share of absentees too, as captain Domenico Criscito is suspended, with Cristian Zapata, Lukas Lerager and Christian Kouame injured. Andrea Favilli and Antonio Sanabria challenge for the opportunity to partner Goran Pandev upfront, with Marko Pajac favoured to Antonio Barreca on the left wing.
The only seasons when Genoa lost 11 of the opening 19 rounds were in 1950-51 and 1959-60, with both ending in relegation.
Juventus vs Parma
Allianz Stadium, Torino
Juventus are showing the first flashes of Sarriball and hope to build momentum as Winter Champions against unpredictable Parma.
The Bianconeri left Inter two points behind thanks to a run of four consecutive victories, and Atalanta picking up a point at San Siro. So far this season, Maurizio Sarri has seen his style of football in fits and starts, but the periods of impressive play are getting gradually longer as the team absorb his methodology. They came flying at Roma with an early 2-0 lead only to lose intensity towards the end, then crushed Udinese 4-0 in the Coppa Italia midweek with Gonzalo Higuain’s goal in combination with Paulo Dybala was pure Sarrismo.
Merih Demiral is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and meniscus, joining Giorgio Chiellini and Sami Khedira on the treatment table. Cristiano Ronaldo was suffering from sinusitis midweek and missed the Coppa game, but is expected to be back for this test. He may well be rested anyway, considering how well Dybala and Higuain played together.
Rodrigo Bentancur had a lot to do with that Coppa performance too, but sits out the final week of his three-match Serie A ban. Douglas Costa was used as a trequartista against Udinese, but Aaron Ramsey returns in a role he doesn’t necessarily appreciate. Demiral’s injury means Matthijs de Ligt has to step back in after several weeks focusing on training and treatment for muscular and shoulder issues.
Parma have had an excellent first half to the season, sitting pretty in seventh place, just one point off the Europa League spots. The injury list is emptying out at last, with Andreas Cornelius, Roberto Inglese and January signing Jasmin Kurtic all able to start. It’s likely, however, that Inglese will get the nod flanked by Gervinho and Dejan Kulusevski.
Fatigue could be a concern for Roberto D’Aversa, having played Roma in the Coppa Italia Round of 16 on Thursday night. It wasn’t a reassuring start to 2020, thrashed 5-0 by Atalanta, but Parma did scrape a draw with Brescia before beating Lecce 2-0.
Parma have never kept a clean sheet away to Juventus in Serie A, conceding 60 goals in 24 trips to Turin.