After just two days’ rest due to the snow postponement of Bologna’s match with Fiorentina at the weekend, Serie A action is upon us once again starting with what will undoubtedly be a delightfully passionate encounter on Friday. Without further adieu, as the hour of calcio draws near, let’s take a detailed look at the fixture list for round 27 of the Italian top flight.
The weekend kicks off Friday night when Juventus take on Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo in a game carrying massive title implications that will also see two fiercely proud clubs clash head-to-head in a boiling atmosphere. Relations have been frosty in recent times between the geographic counterparts, who are often seen to represent Italy’s north-south divide through the vehicle of sport. The Partenopei’s boycotting of the trophy presentation at the curtain-raising Supercoppa Italiana in Beijing after feeling hard done by the referee on the pitch struck a nerve with the Turin giants, whilst the two clubs squabbled once again in January after midfielder Claudio Marchisio noted in an interview that he harbored a particular “antipathy” for Napoli.
The sides enter the match separated by six points atop the table, Walter Mazzarri’s men having dropped two points on the Old Lady in round 26 in managing only a 0-0 draw with Udinese as their title rival blew past Siena. The hosts have managed just one win in their last six meetings with Juventus, but have not been beaten by their opponents at home since September 2000. Each tactician will be able to field a full-strength lineup for the crucial tie, with only Giorgio Chiellini a doubt amongst usual starters for either squad with bruising to his ankle.
Two of Serie A’s greatest playmakers will square off when the opening whistle blows at the San Paolo in Andrea Pirlo and Marek Hamsik against the canvass of what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere complete with deafening volume, flares, and open hostility. Put unapologetically simply, it will unquestionably be a cracking match.
Two more titans will do battle in Saturday’s sole encounter, as Lazio make the trip to the Italian fashion capital to face AC Milan. Both competitors will be keen on snatching what would be a significant victory, as the Rossoneri trail the third place Aquile by just two points in the quest for the final Champions League spot. Max Allegri’s men will at last be well rested after breathlessly crossing swords with powerhouse Barcelona and city rivals Inter in the span of just five days last week, whilst Vladimir Petkovic’s troops played Pescara on Monday but sealed a win with minimum fuss.
The sides were the subject of contrasting news in the past days, Milan being buoyed by the extension of phenomenon Stephan El Shaarawy’s contract until 2018, with Lazio on the reverse being handed a two match supporter ban for continental competition by UEFA for fascist fan behavior in their Europa League tie with Borussia Monchengladbach. The Biancocelesti have not beaten the Diavolo at the San Siro since December 2008 in the Coppa Italia, a fact which couples nicely with a current six match home winning streak for hosts.
The first of eight matches on Sunday features Torino and Palermo, the last place Rosanero desperate for a victory in coming under Gian Piero Gasperini’s guidance once again after a three week coaching cameo by Alberto Malesani. Siena look to return to winning ways at home in their bid for Serie A survival against a toothless Atalanta squad that has triumphed just once since December 8 in league play. On-loan Robur revelation Innocent Emeghara has declared it his mission to ensure the Tuscan side’s safety, claiming he has given no thought to his future, with the task at hand his only objective. Elsewhere, surging Sampdoria look to continue their meteoric rise up the table and crack the top 10 in the friendly confines versus faltering Parma, whilst last week’s comeback kids Bologna and Cagliari square off at the Renato dall’Ara and lowly Pescara welcome fickle Udinese to the seaside Stadio Adriatico.
Mercurial Fiorentina take on Chievo in Florence, hoping that with outside assistance they will at last be able to reenter a European place in the table as they sit two points adrift of fifth place. Vincenzo Montella’s Viola have been an absolute enigma in the opening months of the new year, recording just a pair of wins alongside five losses and a draw after tasting defeat only three times between September and December. Innovative playmaker David Pizarro’s return from suspension is a positive sign for the Artemio Franchi outfit, whilst youngster Adem Ljajic will be looking to build on his return of three goals in his last two matches against a leaky Flying Donkeys defense. Chievo are without a win in Serie A since January, but have taken two of their last three in Florence dating back to 2010 and are renowned for their toughness against the big boys.
Catania will look to seize a golden opportunity when Inter visit Sicily, knowing that a victory would see them leapfrog the Nerazzurri into at least a share of fifth place. The Elefanti stand on the edge of uncharted territory and unprecedented success for the franchise, but have kept their composure under Rolando Maran and taken 16 of the last 21 points available. They have lost just twice at home over the course of the season, whilst the Beneamata have succumbed to defeat in five of their last six away matches in domestic play, but have also conquered the Stadio Angelo Massimino in four of six trips since 2007. Andrea Stramaccioni will be forced to carry on without reinforcements to his decimated strike force, as Inter’s highly-publicized move for the aging John Carew collapsed midweek after the Norwegian was found to be far from match fit.
Genoa take on Roma Sunday evening at the Stadio Olimpico in the weekend’s final tie, with Aurelio Andreazzoli keen on seeing his Giallorossi reel off another win as they gear up for the homestretch assault on the European places. The capital club have dominated this fixture in recent memory, scoring 12 and conceding just three en route to vanquishing their northern foes in each the last five editions.
Hometown heroes Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi will once again be available after missing out on suspension last week, though having won on the road without their talismanic leaders should serve to give the rest of the squad increased confidence. Genoa will be without the banned Andreas Granqvist and injured Thomas Manfredini, meaning Davide Ballardini will likely be forced to field a four-man back line with Cesare Bovo partnering Daniele Portanova in central defense. The teams’ first meeting of the campaign in November produced a memorable match won by the Lupi at the Marassi, as the Grifone went up 2-0 inside 15 minutes only for Roma to come roaring back with four unanswered goals. Each side was under the direction of a different coach at the time, kamikaze 4-3-3 advocate Zdenek Zeman for the Giallorossi, and Luigi De Canio for the Rossoblu.
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