Sassuolo – Torino
Giampiero Ventura is getting ahead of himself. After drawing with Roma last weekend, the Torino manager immediately turned his thoughts to his team’s forthcoming derby against Juventus, commenting that a victory over the Bianconeri would be a glorious way to crown four years of growth and improvement. Before then, though, his team must focus on the more mundane prospect of a mid-table clash with Sassuolo.
The hosts are missing two-thirds of their starting midfield, with Simone Missiroli suspended and Francesco Manganelli injured. The status of striker Simone Zaza is also uncertain. Torino are in better shape, as well as better form.
Away win – 2.38
Chievo – Udinese
Since replacing Eugenio Corini as Chievo’s manager in October, Rolando Maran has moulded his side into one of the most resilient in the division. The Flying Donkeys sit 13th in the Serie A table, and yet no team outside the top three has conceded fewer goals.
Udinese have been erratic going forwards, but typically much more productive at home than on the road. Antonio Di Natale will start on Sunday but has found the net a modest three times since the start of 2015. Chievo might feel confident of extending a run that has seen them keep five clean sheets in their last six games.
Total goals by away team: under 0.5 – 2.38
Empoli – Parma
Already Parma’s win over Juventus is beginning to feel like a distant memory. Since then, the Ducali have been brought back down to earth with a 2-0 defeat away to Genoa, and been dealt yet another points deduction over their non-payment of taxes. The club will be wound down on 30 April – without being allowed to finish the season – unless administrators can make serious reductions to its sporting debt before then.
It is one thing to rouse yourself, under trying circumstances, for a fixture against one of the biggest teams in the division. It is quite another to do so against unglamorous, overachieving, Empoli.
Home win – 1.58
Palermo – Genoa
Injuries to Andrea Bertolacci and Marco Borriello put a dampener on Genoa’s midweek victory over Parma. The former, as the team’s leading provider of assists, will be especially missed. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side must instead rely on Iago Falqué, who has scored in each of the last two games, to lead the European push. Palermo have no such tangible goals left to pursue this season, but defending the Stadio Renzo Barbera – where they have lost only three games so far – might be motivation enough.
Draw – 3.30
Roma – Atalanta
What kind of atmosphere will these teams find at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday? The Curva Sud will be empty: closed as a punishment for banners attacking the mother of Ciro Esposito – the Napoli fan who was shot dead by a Roma Ultra while travelling to the Coppa Italia final last year. The Giallorossi’s owner, James Pallotta, refused to appeal the closure of the stand and instead publically criticised those regular attendees who “do not behave like real fans and only look after their personal interests”.
A bold and commendable stance, but one that has divided Roma’s fans. There has been talk of protests both outside and inside the ground. Will this affect the players? Perhaps, but, then again, the Stadio Olimpico had not exactly been a fortress anyway for a team that has won only one of its last eight home games in all competitions. Roma did beat Napoli there most recently, but goals still do not come easily for this team. Nor, indeed, for their opponents.
Under 2.5 goals – 1.96
Cagliari – Napoli
Aurelio De Laurentiis allowed Napoli’s players to return home to their families on Friday, ending the punitive training camp that he had ordered them into following last week’s Coppa Italia semi-final defeat to Lazio. He can feel satisfied that his original message hit home. In their five games before the training camp, Napoli had drawn twice and lost three times while scoring only a single goal. In their two games since the camp began, they have won twice and scored seven.
They remain seven points adrift of the top three, and realistically their best shot at qualifying for the Champions League might now be to win the Europa League. But unless Napoli’s players want to go straight back to camp, they know that they need to win here.
Away win – 1.90
Inter – Milan
The Derby della Madonnina has seen more glorious days. Separated by a single point in mid-table, Milan and Inter face off knowing that even the winners of this clash will struggle to achieve a Europa League berth.
Which is not to suggest that either team will lack for motivation. The derby will always be the derby and besides, both managers have a great deal to prove to their employers after indifferent campaigns. Each side is missing potential starters, though the absences of Fredy Guarín or Mattia Destro ought not to keep their respective teams from seizing on one another’s defensive frailties.
Over 2.5 goals – 1.98
Fiorentina – Verona
It took a 92nd minute overhead kick from Khouma Babacar to keep Fiorentina’s Europa League dream on track in Kiev. The Viola have not exactly been struggling lately, but there has been just a suspicion in the last few games that they might have lost a little confidence and attacking verve.
This fixture should help to rectify that situation, as Verona bring Serie A’s third-leakiest defence to the Artemio Franchi. The visitors have conceded 16 goals in their last six away games.
Total goals by home team: over 2.5 – 2.65
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