Bologna vs Udinese
Stadio Renato Dell’Ara, Bologna
Saturday, 22-02-2020 @5pm
Bologna have a shortage of options going into this game, having lost when down to nine men with Genoa, while Udinese seek their first win in five.
Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men unexpectedly crumbled during a 3-0 home defeat to Genoa last week. Jerdy Schouten made it an uphill struggle with his early red card, followed by Stefano Denswil for a second bookable offence late on. They are both suspended, joining injured Nicola Sansone, Gary Medel, Roberto Soriano, Ladislav Krejci, Federico Santander and Mitchell Dijks.
It means Nico Dominguez steps into midfield with Andrea Poli, while Mattias Svanberg and Musa Barrow can support Rodrigo Palacio in attack.
Udinese are without a win in five games, but at least stopped the losing streak with two consecutive stalemates against Brescia and impressive Hellas Verona.
They are now just four points above the relegation zone and need to get back on track quickly.
Coach Luca Gotti has almost a full squad to choose from, as Sebastien De Maio and January signing Sebastian Prodl are the only names in the treatment room.
It’s easy to see where the problems are, as the Friulani have scored just one goal in the last four Serie A matches. Stefano Okaka and Kevin Lasagna have got to start finding the net again, rather than relying on Rodrigo De Paul to come up with some magic. Ilija Nestorovski and Lukasz Teodorczyk will be eager to push their way into the starting XI.
Udinese have won seven of their last 10 Serie A meetings with Bologna, losing the other three. These sides also met in the Coppa Italia Fourth Round in December, the Friulani running out 4-0 winners.
SPAL vs Juventus
Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrera
Saturday, 22-02-2020 @8pm
Leaders Juventus travel to rock bottom SPAL and are expected to rotate the squad ahead of the Champions League clash with Lyon.
The Bianconeri find themselves in a very tight title race, as Lazio are just one point behind them, with Inter in the hunt too. It means Maurizio Sarri can’t make too many wholesale changes or take this fixture for granted, even if it is against the side propping up the table.
Some decisions are out of his hands, as Miralem Pjanic has joined Merih Demiral and Douglas Costa on the treatment table, with Leonardo Bonucci suspended.
Gonzalo Higuain is also likely to miss out with back pain. The good news is that Sami Khedira and Federico Bernardeschi returned to training this week, with Giorgio Chiellini making his comeback as a substitute in the 2-0 win over Brescia, five months after ACL surgery.
Cristiano Ronaldo was rested last week, so could return here with Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado in that 4-3-3 formation, Sarri having accepted Aaron Ramsey prefers to play in midfield.
Daniele Rugani could get another run-out, this time in place of suspended Bonucci and alongside Matthijs de Ligt, with Danilo stepping in for Mattia De Sciglio at right-back.
SPAL made their debut under new coach Gigi Di Biagio last week, but failed to stop the rot, suffering a fourth consecutive Serie A defeat. They put up more of a fight in the 2-1 loss at Lecce, but showed no improvements from Leonardo Semplici’s era, despite the switch to 4-3-3.
Francesco Vicari, Alberto Cerri, Bryan Dabo and Marco D’Alessandro are expected to miss out through injury.
Federico Di Francesco and Mattia Valoti are the favourites to flank hitman Andrea Petagna. If anyone is going to break down the Juve defence, it’s Petagna, who has scored precisely 50 per cent of SPAL’s total 18 Serie A goals this season.
The only problem is Petagna has never scored against Juve in seven previous attempts.
Since their return to Serie A in 2017-18, SPAL are unbeaten at home against Juventus, earning a 0-0 draw and 2-1 victory.
Fiorentina vs AC Milan
Artemio Franchi, Florence
Saturday, 22-02-2020 @10:45pm
Milan are out for precious points and the opportunity to break into the Europa League places, but there are so many other storylines in Florence.
The Rossoneri seem to have found their shape with a 4-2-3-1 formation, using Zlatan Ibrahimovic supported by Samu Castillejo, Hakan Calhanoglu and Ante Rebic. They had dominated Inter for the entire first half before throwing it all away in a 4-2 defeat, but that is their only recent blip in an excellent run of results.
They have climbed up to joint sixth place with Hellas Verona and Parma on 35 points, so a push for Europe is well within their capabilities under Stefano Pioli.
The coach will be more than eager to prove a point at the Stadio Franchi, where he resigned in protest at his treatment by then-patrons the Della Valle brothers.
Pioli is a beloved figure in Florence, having overseen not only positive results, but also steered the squad through the most difficult moment in their history, the sudden death of captain Davide Astori.
There will no doubt be some emotional reunions when he steps back on to that turf.
It was still Marco Giampaolo in charge the last time these sides met, a 3-1 Fiorentina victory at San Siro on September 29. Vincenzo Montella was the Viola boss then, so both have changed in the intervening months.
Franck Ribery ran riot against a meagre Milan defence that day and he has been sorely missed since injuring his ankle.
There were numerous changes in January too, such as former Milan striker Patrick Cutrone joining Fiorentina. It remains to be seen if he’ll partner Federico Chiesa, especially after Dusan Vlahovic bagged a brace in the 5-1 win away to Sampdoria. Ribery and Christian Kouame are still long-term injury absentees.
Milan have midfield options somewhat limited, as Calhanoglu is expected to miss out through injury. He skipped Monday’s 1-0 win over Torino too, replaced not very impressively by Lucas Paqueta, as Rebic was again on target.
Simon Kjaer picked up a thigh strain during that match, so misses out with Rade Krunic, Lucas Biglia, Alexis Saelemaekers and Leo Duarte. Matteo Gabbia is the favourite rather than Mateo Musacchio to take over in defence, seeing as the latter has a slight calf issue.
Milan have lost only two of their last 13 Serie A trips to Florence, winning six and drawing five.
The other Serie A fixtures this weekend
-Genoa vs Lazio @2:30pm
-Hellas Verona vs Cagliari @5pm
-Torino vs Parma @5pm
-Atalanta vs Sassuolo @5pm
-AS Roma vs Lecce @8pm
-Inter Milan vs Sampdoria @10:45pm
-Brescia 1-2 Napoli