Udinese vs Sassuolo
Darcia Arena, Udine
Sunday, 12-01-2020 @2:30pm
Udinese have picked up 10 points from their last 15 on offer and are facing direct rivals Sassuolo in the bottom half of Serie A this weekend.
The wind has turned in Udine, as Rodrigo De Paul inspires a confident Friuli side on hot form under Luca Gotti and are looking to build on back-to-back wins during their first home game of 2020.
A late goal from the Argentine helped them pick up another three vital points in the windy conditions at the Stadio Via del Mare last round, but the long way home should’ve been more pleasant knowing that they are now seven points clear of the relegation zone.
The tactical changes from Gotti during the match turned the game in favour of the Zebrette, but he should be back to a 3-5-2 formation at the Dacia Arena.
Samir is the only one still missing from the squad and Gotti will most likely call on an unchanged XI when the Neroverdi come to town.
The away side were unbeaten in four games in December, until Napoli got the better of them in stoppages at the Mapei Stadium during the last fixture of 2019.
Roberto De Zerbi’s men were unlucky when they lost 2-1 in a controversial match at Genoa in their return to action after the holidays and it proved extra costly, as Domenico Berardi was sent off after the final whistle. His insults towards the officials earned him a two-match ban.
Sassuolo are six points away from the relegation zone and one point behind their hosts on Sunday and will have the opportunity to climb the table directly leapfrogging their closest rivals with a win in Friuli.
De Zerbi is still without Berardi, Gregoire Defrel and Vlad Chiriches, whilst the Brazilian defensive duo Marlon and Rogerio are doubtful for the tie.
In Berardi’s absence, Manuel Locatelli picked up another yellow against Genoa and is suspended for this game, meaning Jeremie Boga could end up as a partner to Sassuolo’s joint-top goal scorer Francesco Caputo up front.
The 19-year-old Ivorian Hamed Junior Traore could play in support behind the attackers in a 4-3-1-2, when Alfred Duncan might be moved down from his attacking position against the Rossoblu and into a midfield trio at the Dacia Arena.
The two teams are fighting to step further away from the relegation battle and Udinese could potentially climb all the way to the top half, as they are only two points behind Bologna.
A six-pointer in Friuli could give us an exciting game and Udinese’s good form will make sure Sassuolo are to work hard to kick-start their season and stop their recent slump.
Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last five Serie A visits to Udine, winning three and drawing two.
Fiorentina vs SPAL
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Sunday, 12-01-2020 @5pm
After seeing victory snatched from their grasp on Beppe Iachini’s debut, Fiorentina try to get the better of bottom club SPAL.
The Gigliati were on their way to record a much-needed win in Iachini’s first game since replacing sacked Vincenzo Montella, but a Riccardo Orsolini goal in stoppage time for Bologna cancelled out Marco Benassi’s opener.
Iachini praised the work effort of Federico Chiesa and claimed the Italy international will soon be back to his best form, but the 22-year-old has only two goals in 15 games this season. His effectiveness is naturally dented by losing Franck Ribery to a long-term injury, as Dusan Vlahovic has very different characteristics, experience and talent.
SPAL haven’t won any of their four meetings with Fiorentina since they were promoted to Serie A in 2017 and Leonardo Semplici’s men need to start winning if they’re going to stay up this season.
Back to propping up the table after a brief respite thanks to their 2-1 win at Torino, they are still only three points behind safety and nothing has been decided.
Semplici is hoping Andrea Petagna and Federico Di Francesco will score the goals needed when they neutralise the home side with a 3-5-2 of their own.
The two forwards have only scored eight times combined, as Sergio Floccari has gone 14 games without scoring this term and the strikers represent a worry for the Ferrara side.
SPAL’s last away game against Torino also represented their first win on the road this season and Semplici will have to call on Felipe to replace suspended Nenad Tomovic in his defensive trio.
On the midfield, he should have the same five available from their loss to Verona, but will most likely leave out Alberto Paloschi up top.
As Fiorentina will be gunning for their first win under Iachini, SPAL are trying to pull themselves back in the race for safety.
SPAL have won only one of their last 13 Serie A meetings with Fiorentina, 1-0 at home in 1967-68, along with four draws and eight defeats.
Sampdoria vs Brescia
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sunday, 12-01-2020 @5pm
Brescia must do without suspended Sandro Tonali, while Sampdoria have half their defence banned.
There are numerous forced changes in this relegation dogfight, as Claudio Ranieri and Eugenio Corini make do with the few players left available to them.
Samp have Fabio Depaoli and Omar Colley suspended, with Gaston Ramirez, Edgar Barret, Andrea Bertolacci and Alex Ferrari injured. It means we are likely to see Jeison Murillo finally get a game at centre-back with Julian Chabot, but the former Inter and Sevilla man is bound to be rusty.
Fabio Quagliarella and Manolo Gabbiadini are strike partners, although Gianluca Caprari is available again after his ban expired. Claudio Ranieri has made the Blucerchiati far more solid than they were under Eusebio Di Francesco, as shown in a 0-0 draw at Milan to start 2019, their third clean sheet in four rounds.
Brescia have a lot of selection headaches too after the last-gasp 2-1 home defeat to Lazio. Midfield dynamo Tonali is suspended along with defender Andrea Cistana, while Emanuele Ndoj, Alfredo Donnarumma, Bruno Martella and Daniele Dessena are undergoing treatment.
It’s an opportunity for Federico Viviani to take the midfield reins with Dimitri Bisoli and Romulo, while Massimiliano Mangraviti steps in to the defence.
The unlucky loss to Lazio was another setback for the Rondinelle, who had found their feet with wins over SPAL and Lecce, but have now managed one point from the last three rounds, including the rescheduled Week 7 encounter with Sassuolo.
Since Claudio Ranieri arrived, only Real Madrid (seven), Leicester City and Getafe (six) have managed more clean sheets than Sampdoria (five) in Europe’s top five leagues.
Torino vs Bologna
Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Torino
Sunday, 12-01-2020 @5pm
Andrea Belotti took Torino to a much-needed and frankly surprising victory away to Roma, but consistency will be crucial with Bologna.
Walter Mazzarri’s men are remarkably unpredictable this season, lurching from triumph to disaster, sometimes during the same match. Just as they seem to be in total crisis, up pops a 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico, decided by Andrea Belotti’s brace. Considering they saw out 2019 with a shock 2-1 home loss to SPAL, anything is possible with this team.
Bologna have turned a corner since Sinisa Mihajlovic returned to full-time training after four months of treatment for leukaemia. The coach always had a strong bond with his players and that has only been intensified during this difficult time. The results have improved lately to reflect his presence, winning three of the last five rounds, including big scalps against Napoli and Atalanta. They showed fighting spirit to snatch a late equaliser with Fiorentina in the opening game of 2020, as Riccardo Orsolini bent in a free kick from a seemingly impossible angle at the 94th minute.
Toro’s injury crisis continues, with Lyanco, Iago Falque, Daniele Baselli, Vittorio Parigini and Simone Edera all unavailable. Simone Zaza should again be shelved in favour of Simone Verdi and Alex Berenguer, especially as Verdi will want to prove he is still the same player who impressed so much in the Bologna jersey. It’s hard to believe, considering how much he has struggled since at Napoli and Torino. Gelson Bremer and Ansaldi return from suspension, although the Argentine is a major doubt with a calf problem.
Bologna are without Mitchell Dijks and Ladislav Krejci, while Blerim Dzemaili requires a fitness test against his old club after missing the Fiorentina draw. Orsolini is now the first choice starter alongside Roberto Soriano and Nicola Sansone to support veteran striker Rodrigo Palacio. It’ll be an intriguing battle between the two centre-forwards, as both Palacio and Belotti are so hard-working, putting themselves about all over the pitch to harass opposition defenders and help out at the back.
Andrea Belotti scored five goals in six Serie A meetings with Bologna, including his first hat-trick in a 5-1 victory in August 2016.
Hellas Verona vs Genoa
Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona
Sunday, 12-01-2020 @8pm
Verona boss Ivan Juric comes face to face with his former club in crisis, although Davide Nicola did get a winning start to his Genoa career.
At the start of this season, few expected Hellas Verona to be comfortably mid-table (with a game in hand) and the Grifone sitting in penultimate place.
That’s precisely what happened thanks to President Enrico Preziosi going through three coaches in under half a campaign, sacking Aurelio Andreazzoli in October, with Thiago Motta following two months later.
It’s a situation Juric will be familiar with, as he has been hired, fired, rehired and sacked again by Preziosi in recent years. He returned to Marassi out of sheer love for the club he also represented as a player and recently confessed that he made mistakes at Genoa because he “cared too much.”
The call of the Rossoblu is strong for those who have been here in the past, which is why Mattia Perin, Mattia Destro and Valon Behrami all returned in the January transfer window.
Nicola won his debut, albeit in very controversial circumstances, as both goals in the 2-1 victory over Sassuolo could easily have been disallowed.
Andrea Pinamonti returns from injury to partner Goran Pandev, sending Antonio Sanabria to the bench, but Lasse Schone and Behrami could get the nod in midfield.
Verona have been impressive under Juric since their promotion from Serie B via the play-offs. They fought back from 3-0 down to hold Torino 3-3, then earned a 2-0 win away to SPAL that effectively allowed Genoa to get off the foot of the table.
Injuries are still an issue, ruling out Daniel Bessa, Eddie Salcedo, Alan Empereur, Lubomir Tupta and Gennaro Tutino. Giampaolo Pazzini scored in his last two Serie A games, but the veteran should still be on the bench for this one, making way for Mariusz Stepinski.
Sofyan Amrabat is back after his ban to bolster the midfield with ex-Genoa men Miguel Veloso and Darko Lazovic. In fact, Veloso is the son-in-law of Genoa President Preziosi.
Only Inter (seven) have kept more clean sheets than Verona (six) this season, whereas Genoa managed just two.
Roma vs Juventus
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Sunday, 12-01-2020 @10:45pm
Roma are fresh from a shock home defeat and Cristiano Ronaldo is hoping to continue his excellent Juventus form in this high-profile clash.
Paulo Fonseca’s men had 31 shots on goal against Torino last week and still lost 2-0, so considering they had won four of the previous five games, perhaps that won’t affect their confidence too badly.
Similarly, Juve shook off the double defeat to Lazio in Serie A and the Supercoppa Italiana by starting 2020 with a 4-0 hammering of Cagliari. It saw Cristiano Ronaldo find the net for the fifth round in a row and score his first ever Serie A hat-trick.
Maurizio Sarri has a big choice to make upfront, as he’ll be tempted to bring back the all-star attack of Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala. Pipita was shelved last time to make way for Aaron Ramsey in the trequartista role, but his fitness levels remain a concern after a long injury lay-off.
Rodrigo Bentancur continues to sit out his ban, with Sami Khedira and Giorgio Chiellini injured, so Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi can again flank former Roma hero Miralem Pjanic. Wojciech Szczesny also returns to visit his old club, while Matthijs de Ligt contends the centre-back spot with Merih Demiral.
Roma have been in the middle of an injury crisis for what feels like years more than months. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was just about to make his comeback when picking up another thigh strain in training this week, while Justin Kluivert, Javier Pastore, Davide Santon, Bryan Cristante and Davide Zappacosta are still out of action. Federico Fazio remains in doubt too, but Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini are increasingly the first choice pairing in defence. Leonardo Spinazzola may well get the nod against his former teammates after a run of Alessandro Florenzi starts.
Nicolò Zaniolo had only a minor problem in training and is expected to start in the supporting trio with Lorenzo Pellegrini and Diego Perotti behind Edin Dzeko.
Juve could suffer two consecutive Serie A defeats to Roma for the first time since 1995.
Upcoming fixture – Monday, 13-01-2019
-Parma vs Lecce @10:45pm