Sassuolo – Udinese
The Sassuolo fairytale continues. Eusebio Di Francesco’s team beat Milan using a side made up entirely of Italian players on Tuesday, moving up into the top half of the table. With just one defeat in their last 11 games, the Neroverdi can feel bullish about a home appointment with Udinese, and especially if the visitors rest Antonio Di Natale – whose long-standing knee troubles make it hard for him to play two games in a week.
Home win – 2.05
Torino – Milan
Alessio Cerci never imagined that he would be reunited with old friends so soon. Barely four months have passed since the forward left Torino for Atlético Madrid, and his affection for his former team still runs deep. As Cerci pointed out at a press conference this week, he has a tattoo in memory of a goal he scored for the Granata.
But if he has been following their progress this season, he will know that they are a shadow of the team that snatched a Europa League place last year. Even with Omar El Kaddouri and Jean-Francois Gillet returning to the side, they are likely to struggle against opponents they have not beaten since 2001.
Away win – 2.60
Inter – Genoa
This has been a morale-boosting start to the year for Inter, who played with verve and ambition as they drew with Juventus, and who have acted decisively in the transfer market to acquire Lukas Podolski and Xherdan Shaqiri. But now they need to start winning games. Joint-11th in the table, they are a long way from achieving their owner’s “minimum target” of qualifying for Europe next year.
Genoa are a direct rival in that regard, and will not be brushed aside lightly. The Grifone have the third-best away record in the league, with 15 points from eight games.
Double chance: draw or away win – 2.33
Atalanta – Chievo
Making fewer headlines than Shaqiri this week was Mauricio Pinilla’s transfer to Atalanta. The Bergamese club have just 13 goals to show for their 17 games so far and, whilst they did stick two past Genoa on Tuesday, manager Stefano Colantuono will be grateful to have another option up front.
Pinilla is expected to go straight into the starting lineup. He has a good chance to make a productive start against opponents who will be without their suspended midfield orchestrator, Perparim Hetemaj.
Home win – 2.10
Cagliari – Cesena
Gianfranco Zola’s debut as Cagliari manager could not have gone much worse, his team losing 5-0 away to Palermo and having Daniele Conti sent off to boot. The captain will thus be suspended for this game, along with Diego Farias, giving the Sardinians holes to fill at either end of the pitch.
But Cesena are perhaps in an even bigger mess, joint-bottom on nine points and missing a starting centre-back of their own after Stefano Lucchini was injured during their loss to Napoli. It is easy to imagine tempers spilling over in a match between two teams who know that their top-flight status is already on the line.
Red card given during game – 3.30
Fiorentina – Palermo
Nine games without defeat have propelled Palermo up to seventh. But if their away results were anything like as strong as their home ones, they would be a lot higher than that. Only seven of the Sicilians’ 24 points have been earned on their travels.
The good news for them is that Fiorentina have won just twice all season at home. And the Viola’s best centre-back, Stefan Savic, has just been suspended for four games.
Away win – 5.25
Roma – Lazio
Could this be a Rome derby between two legitimate title contenders? Probably not, given that Lazio are presently 10 points behind league leaders Juventus. But Roma will go top – at least briefly – with a victory, while Lazio would cement their hold on third place with the same. That in itself is remarkable. Both clubs are looking down on their Milanese counterparts, a state of affairs that has not held to the end of a season since 2000-01.
Lazio have the bit between their teeth after a 3-0 rout of Sampdoria, whereas Roma were beneficiaries of some contentious decisions in their 1-0 victory at Udinese. But the Derby della Capitale is always a match unto itself. One thing we can say with confidence is that Lazio’s Felipe Anderson, with four goals and four assists in his last four games, has become a difficult man to contain.
Anderson to score – 4.40
Sampdoria – Empoli
Massimo Maccarone will return to the scene of his darkest days in football this weekend. The striker was made into a scapegoat for all of Sampdoria’s failings as the club crashed out of the top-flight in 2011. His sincere attempts to make amends in Serie B failed as he lost his place in the first-team. “I even gave up smoking,” he exclaimed while reliving the experience in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
He is much happier today, leading the line for an Empoli team that is faring better than expected on its return to the top-flight. Unbeaten in eight games, the Tuscans have a real chance to achieve a result against opponents who have been damaged by the sale of Manolo Gabbiadini.
Draw – 3.45
Verona – Parma
Is there hope yet for Parma? A win against Fiorentina to start 2015 has allowed fans to dream that their team might yet be destined for greater things than relegation this season. New owner Rezart Taci has vowed to make the club “great” again, although tangible details of his plan remain thin on the ground. For now, Roberto Donadoni will seek simply to keep up the momentum against a declining Verona side.
Draw – 3.30
Look out for Paolo’s preview of Napoli v Juventus on Sunday