Inter Milan vs Cagliari
Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, Milan
Sunday, 26-01-2020 @2:30pm
Inter have dropped four points off Juventus after back-to-back draws and need to stop the slide against Radja Nainggolan’s Cagliari in crisis.
The tension will be sky high at San Siro in the Sunday lunchtime kick-off, with two teams in dire need of a boost. Antonio Conte’s men have gone from joint leaders to four points off the pace and potentially down into third, if Lazio win their game in hand against Hellas Verona next month.
Their 1-1 draws with Atalanta and Lecce were damaging, while inevitably they are distracted by the frenetic activity on the transfer market, as the club tries to find greater strength in depth for their unhappy coach.
Ashley Young should be in the squad and could even get his debut on the right side of five-man midfield, because Antonio Candreva is suspended, with Danilo D’Ambrosio, Marcelo Brozovic and Roberto Gagliardini injured. Borja Valero is the inevitable replacement for Brozovic, who sprained his ankle, flanked by Nicolò Barella and Stefano Sensi. Alessandro Bastoni should be preferred to Diego Godin, especially after his goal at Lecce.
Cagliari are in even worse condition, although a 2-2 draw at 10-man Brescia did at least stop the run of four consecutive defeats. It’s difficult to work out what precisely went wrong for the Sardinians, as they went from fourth place and a 12-round unbeaten streak to two points from six Serie A games.
These teams met here in the Coppa Italia on January 14, Inter running out 4-1 winners with a Romelu Lukaku brace, Borja Valero and Andrea Ranocchia goals. Christian Oliva’s scorching strike was the only response.
Fabio Pisacane is suspended, with Fabrizio Cacciatore, Luca Ceppitelli, Federico Mattiello and Leonardo Pavoletti still injured. Joao Pedro bagged a brace last time out to continue his impressive campaign of 13 goals, more than the last two seasons already, but Giovanni Simeone has gone back to the misfiring forward we saw towards the end of his Fiorentina career.
Cagliari have kept only one clean sheet in their last 35 Serie A meetings with Inter, home and away, a 2-0 result in April 2013.
Hellas Verona vs Lecce
Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, Verona
Sunday, 26-01-2020 @5pm
Verona continue to sit comfortably mid-table, but Lecce received a boost after taking points off Scudetto challengers Inter.
Ivan Juric’s men are unbeaten in four games but might have to cope without Marash Kumbulla when the Giallorossi arrive on Sunday.
Fabio Borini came on and scored against Bologna last time, but Juric will probably keep him on the bench to begin with this weekend too. Matteo Pessina and Valerio Verre could be favoured behind Samuel Di Carmine in an attacking trio, but on-form Mattia Zaccagni sits out a ban.
Verona are 10th in Serie A after a great season so far and the unexpected form is not so surprising anymore.
Lecce will tread carefully, but boast more confidence after holding Inter to a draw at the Stadio Via del Mare last time.
Fabio Liverani has a long list of injured players, including Diego Farias, Evgeniy Shakhov and Marco Calderoni.
The Salentini haven’t scored in their last two away games, after securing a 1-0 win against Fiorentina, and will have to start picking up points if they are to keep their head above the water.
Currently one point clear of the relegation zone, this match means a lot to the away side and it could be an opportunity to close on either Sampdoria or Sassuolo, who play each other this weekend.
Since the start of October 2019, no team in Europe’s top five leagues has picked up fewer wins than Lecce (one, against Fiorentina in November). Toulouse and Nimes also scraped one during that period in Ligue 1.
Sampdoria vs Sassuolo
Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sunday, 26-01-2020 @5pm
Its touch and go for veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella as Claudio Ranieri prepares Sampdoria to fight Sassuolo in a vital game between direct rivals in Serie A.
Samp are struggling without Gaston Ramirez and Fabio Depaoli for another week, but might also have to trust Gianluca Caprari paired with Manolo Gabbiadini upfront.
The Blucerchiati are back in action after a gruesome 5-1 loss against Lazio last weekend, which had followed their own 5-1 success against Brescia.
Inconsistency has been a shortcoming for Ranieri’s side this term and they continue to fight for their salvation in the top division.
Sassuolo are one place better off and three points above their opponents. Roberto De Zerbi’s men will be confident again after beating Torino at home last round, but are currently without a win in back-to-back matches on the road and have only one victory in their last five away games.
Domenico Berardi was back with a goal last time and could be vital again in De Zerbi’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
This represents a big opportunity for the Neroverdi to distance themselves a bit from the relegation battle, whilst Ranieri is looking to sneak up behind them with a win at Marassi this Sunday.
This will be Roberto De Zerbi’s 100th Serie A game as a manager and so far he has a win percentage rate of 22.2.
Parma vs Udinese
Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma
Sunday, 26-01-2020 @5pm
The Parma injury crisis is back in full swing as they host Udinese, with both teams coming off unlucky defeats.
Roberto D’Aversa’s men went out of the Coppa Italia with a weakened side and lost 5-0 to Atalanta, but beat Lecce and were only narrowly defeated at Juventus last week.
The Ducali are currently seventh in Serie A and could be in with a shout for the European places in the League this term.
Udinese had been on a great run since last year, winning three Serie A matches on the bounce. Again, they put out a makeshift team for the Coppa Italia, but fumbled a lead to slide 3-2 at Milan in stoppages.
Injuries are piling up yet again for Parma, as Roberto Inglese could be out for the rest of the season, with Gervinho, Yann Karamoh and Alberto Grassi also out of action. Andreas Cornelius therefore has to step in as centre-forward, flanked by Juraj Kucka and Dejan Kulusevski.
Luca Gotti is coming without defender Samir, who is out for a few months, but will be able to call on Stefano Okaka and Kevin Lasagna in attack and should continue to count on Rodrigo De Paul as the creative force in the middle of the park.
An important game for both teams, as Parma have a chance to push Cagliari for the sixth and final place in the Europa League, but there are only four points separating them from 14th-placed Udinese.
Parma have won their last two Serie A games against Udinese, but haven’t beaten the Friulani three times in a row since November 2011.
Roma vs Lazio
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Sunday, 26-01-2020 @8pm
Its going to be a fascinating edition of the Derby della Capitale, as Lazio are on a run of 11 consecutive Serie A victories and Roma can close the gap from third place.
There has been a real rebirth of the clubs from the Eternal City this season, none more so than Lazio, who have won the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and are on a record run of 11 Serie A wins on the bounce. With a game in hand against Verona, they sit only two points behind second-placed Inter.
Roma are revitalised too, now three points clear of Atalanta in that fourth and final Champions League spot. The fact they have been able to get such good results during an extraordinary injury crisis is testament to Paulo Fonseca and his players.
Both teams crashed out of the Coppa Italia midweek, Lazio falling 1-0 to Napoli in a game with a missed Ciro Immobile penalty and two red cards, while Roma were beaten 3-1 by Juventus 24 hours later. Luckily for the Biancocelesti, Coppa bans do not apply to Serie A competition, so Lucas Leiva is available.
Luis Alberto also returns after a slight injury, while Joaquin Correa is still not 100 per cent fit, so Felipe Caicedo should again partner Capocannoniere Immobile. Danilo Cataldi, Adam Marusic and Jordan Lukaku are out of action.
Roma sorely missed Edin Dzeko during his Coppa Italia ban, but at least the hitman will be well-rested to lead the line. Nobody else is, as the squad is down to the bare bones and Amadou Diawara is the latest addition to the absentee list with a knee injury. Fonseca has to do without Diego Perotti, Nicolò Zaniolo, Federico Fazio, Javier Pastore, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Davide Zappacosta and Mirco Antonucci.
Leonardo Spinazzola put in the best performance of his Roma career last week, shining in the win away to Genoa just days after a failed transfer to Inter. Nobody is more motivated to prove they are in good shape and can be relied upon. With Diawara’s injury, Bryan Cristante takes over with Jordan Veretout in midfield, while Cengiz Under, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Justin Kluivert are the only real candidates to support Dzeko. Another option would be to move Alessandro Florenzi into a more advanced role on the left for misfiring Kluivert.
These teams drew 1-1 back in September, but Lazio have not gone unbeaten in both Serie A season derbies since 2012-13, when Vladimir Petkovic was in charge.
Napoli vs Juventus
Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Sunday, 26-01-2020 @10:45pm
Maurizio Sarri returns to the Stadio San Paolo for the first time as an opponent, on the Juventus bench no less, as Napoli try to avoid a record losing streak.
This is going to be an emotional reunion and it’s not clear yet how the Napoli fans will greet their former hero. Sarri was largely absolved of his departure when he went abroad to Chelsea, with blame pinned on Aurelio De Laurentiis, but the situation changed after he returned to Italy for their arch-rivals Juventus. Gonzalo Higuain always received a frosty reception, although it’s possible he will only be on the bench with Sarri this time.
Gennaro Gattuso is the first Napoli coach since Zdenek Zeman in 2000 to lose three of his first four Serie A games for the club. Incredibly, he could oversee the first ever run of five Serie A home defeats on the bounce.
There was some respite in the Coppa Italia midweek, as Napoli surprisingly knocked holders Lazio out of the quarter-final. Lorenzo Insigne was clearly determined to prove the critics wrong and make it up to the fans, as he scored the only goal of the game within 90 seconds. Ciro Immobile then missed a penalty, with Elseid Hysaj and Lucas Leiva sent off, all in the opening 25 minutes.
That hard-fought victory could be the turning point for the Partenopei’s season, as they gained confidence and the players took on responsibility for what felt like the first time in months. It also marked the return to the Stadio San Paolo of the ultras, who had been on strike for weeks in protest at ticketing restrictions, but a truce was brokered and their support made a tangible difference.
Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, Kevin Malcuit and Faouzi Ghoulam are still struggling with injuries, but Allan is back after a slight muscular issue forced him to miss the Coppa match. New signings Diego Demme and Stanislav Lobotka should only be on the bench to begin with in this massive game, with Arkadiusz Milik again flanked by Jose Callejon and Insigne.
Juventus have been nigh-on unstoppable since the New Year and broke four points clear of Inter at the top of the Serie A table. Cristiano Ronaldo can’t stop scoring, whether he’s paired with Higuain, Paulo Dybala or both. It’s unlikely Sarri will risk the all-star trident in this match, so Aaron Ramsey steps in to the trequartista role. Rodrigo Bentancur finally returns in a Serie A match after his three-round ban expired.
Danilo joined Mattia De Sciglio, Giorgio Chiellini, Merih Demiral and Sami Khedira on the treatment table.
Napoli have lost their last four Serie A home games, the worst run since 1998, and they have never hit five.