Genoa – Cagliari
For the fifth consecutive round of games, Cagliari have been slated to play on a Saturday. As club president Tommaso Giulini noted grumpily, this is something of a competitive disadvantage - allowing their relegation rivals to kick off later in the weekend with a better view of the situation that they face in the standings.
None of this really matters, though, as long as Cagliari keep on losing regardless. The Sardinians have earned a single point from their three games since Zdenek Zeman’s return, to go with the one that they picked up in their previous six matches. Hopes that midfielder Godfred Donsah might return from injury to inspire his flagging side have been dashed after he was struck down with the flu.
Home win – 1.96
Parma – Juventus
They remain doomed to relegation, but Parma are refusing to go quietly. In the past week they have drawn away to Inter and beaten Udinese. In fact, they have only tasted defeat twice in their last six Serie A matches. But they will lose this Saturday to a Juve team that crushed Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday, and which seems to have raised its game another notch – despite losing important players to injury – at this crucial stage of the season.
Away team to win without conceding – 1.81
Verona – Inter
Walter Mazzarri was sacked as Inter manager after drawing at home to Verona last November. Inter were ninth at the time, and averaging 1.45 points per game. Five months later, they occupy exactly the same position in the standings, only now their average has fallen to 1.31 per game. So much for Roberto Mancini the saviour.
Could Verona capitalise on such weakness to record their first victory over Inter since 1992? Perhaps, but the safest assumption is simply that this should be a high-scoring encounter. No team outside the relegation zone has conceded more often than Verona this season. But equally, few sides in Serie A can boast a more in-form striker than Luca Toni.
Over 2.5 goals – 1.87
Cesena – Chievo
Beaten just once in five games, Cesena are showing the spirit required to drag themselves out of the relegation zone but not yet the cutting edge. Only one of the four other matches was won.
A victory here could be critical, allowing Cesena to close to within a point of 17th-placed Atalanta (at least until they play later on Sunday) and perhaps also pull Chievo back into the scrap for survival. But the visitors are no pushovers, and will restore both Perparim Hetemaj and Dario Dainelli to their starting XI after last week’s setback away to Sassuolo
Draw – 3.10
Atalanta – Sassuolo
If Atalanta continue to hover just above the relegation zone then that is indicative of the weakness of the teams behind them more than it is of any great achievement on their part. The Bergamese club have scraped together three points from four games since hiring Edy Reja in March, and scored only twice along the way.
Damaging their cause further is the fact that Mauricio Pinilla – who found the net with a sensational overhead kick against Torino last week, and who has the best goals-to-games ratio on the team – will be suspended for the next three games. Sassuolo’s motivation might be on the wane as they drift toward a mid-table finish, but they still had enough about them to beat Chievo last weekend.
Final score: 1-1 – 6.50
Lazio – Empoli
Third in the table, six points clear of fourth-placed Fiorentina and through to the Coppa Italia final, Lazio are playing with a swagger not witnessed in many years. They have racked up seven straight league victories, and won away to Napoli in the cup on Wednesday night. It is hard to imagine Empoli thwarting them, even if the Tuscans themselves had been unbeaten in eight games prior to their loss at Juventus Stadium last time out.
Lazio to win with a one-goal handicap – 2.30
Napoli – Fiorentina
The Rafa Benítez era is unravelling at Napoli, his team tumbling out of the Champions League places and now out of the Coppa Italia as well. There is theoretically time left to rescue this Serie A campaign, but recent performances offer scant grounds to believe it will be done. At this stage, the Europa League represents the Spaniard’s most realistic path to redemption.
Fiorentina are also still involved in that competition, and it will be intriguing to see whether either manager rotates their team with an eye on Thursday night. The visitors’ recent form is considerably better than that of their hosts, but Napoli may be lifted by the return of Lorenzo Insigne to the starting XI. Only a spectacular clearance off-the-line from Senad Lulic prevented him from dragging Napoli level after he came off the bench on Wednesday night.
Home win – 2.00
Torino – Roma
The fact of having Lazio breathing down their necks seems to have enlivened Roma, winners of consecutive matches for the first time since November. Making it three-in-a-row will be far from straightforward away to this resilient Torino – and especially if Daniele De Rossi is to be hindered by a reported a microfracture to one of his vertebrae.
Roma do have a recent history of dominating the Granata, with eight wins in their last nine meetings. To make it nine out of 10 they will need to keep things tight at the back, as their lack of goals at the other end of the pitch remains an enduring problem.
Roma to win without conceding – 4.00
Udinese – Palermo
Beaten by Parma in midweek, Udinese’s players have since been obliged to spend time away from their families at a punitive training camp called by the manager Andrea Stramaccioni. His intention has been to focus their minds on the fact that they have not yet secured their top-flight status for another season – even if the prospect of relegation objectively looks like a distant one.
If nothing else, his actions should inject a little urgency into this fixture against the similarly-stagnating Palermo. With any luck, an entertaining fixture should follow.
Over 2.5 goals – 2.20
Milan – Sampdoria
Is there life yet in Milan’s European ambitions? Wins over Cagliari and Palermo have nudged them up to eighth, but Sampdoria represent a different calibre of opponent.
For Milan, much will depend on Jérémy Ménez, second in Serie A’s scoring charts after finding the net four times in his last four appearances. Sinisa Mihajlovic, after failing in his bid to park the bus away to Fiorentina last weekend, might just conclude that his team is better off fighting fire with fire.
Over 2.5 goals – 2.02