Chievo – Milan
Pippo Inzaghi has 14 games left to save a rotten season. He made a start by guiding his team to victory over Cesena last weekend, but if a visit to 16th-place Chievo looks on the surface like an opportunity to start building some positive momentum, then we must remember that the Rossoneri have not beaten anyone away from home since October.
Their last road win was against Chievo’s neighbours Verona, however, at the same Bentegodi stadium that they return to this Saturday. The hosts have also scored just 10 times in 12 home games so far, and must do without the suspended Rubén Botta, who had recently installed to the attack in a bid to improve that statistic.
Away win – 2.50
Cagliari – Verona
Gianfranco Zola met with Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini this week to discuss the team’s loss to Inter. It was enough to prompt speculation that the manager’s position was already under threat.
The club put a different spin on things, suggesting that this was a routine get-together, but certainly tensions are high ahead of this fixture. A win would bring Cagliari to within a point of Verona, and could see them move level with Atalanta, but a defeat would cut them further adrift in the relegation zone. Injuries to Verona’s starting goalkeeper, Rafael, plus centre-back Guillermo Rodriguez will give encouragement to Zola’s team.
Home win – 2.10
Atalanta – Sampdoria
Suspensions for Eder, Stefano Okaka and Roberto Soriano do not bode well for Sampdoria, but then neither do injuries to Davide Zappacosta and Giuseppe Biava for Atalanta. On paper the visitors, with Luis Muriel, Stefano Okaka and Samuel Eto’o ready to enter the fray, look better equipped to deal with their absences up front than the hosts do with theirs at the back. But Samp are struggling at the moment, without a win in six games, and I have a hard time seeing them take all three points here.
Draw – 3.25
Cesena – Udinese
Udinese had already loaded up the team bus to travel to Parma last Saturday when they learned that their fixture had been abandoned. Will the unexpected week off turn out to have been a help or a hindrance ahead of this return to action at the Manuzzi?
These two teams have met twice already this season – once in the league and once in the cup – with both games finishing as draws after 90 minutes (Udinese eventually won the latter tie in extra-time). Cesena’s form has improved somewhat since then, and they have scored at least twice in each of their last three home games. If only they could defend so effectively.
Over 2.5 goals – 2.28
Genoa – Parma
Once again, the biggest question surrounding Parma’s next fixture is whether it will even go ahead. The club’s captain, Alessandro Lucarelli, said on Friday that he and his team-mates would not travel to Genoa, contradicting suggestions earlier in the week that players might drive in their own cars to the match. Once again, it would seem fruitless to offer a tip for a hypothetical match under such circumstances.
Palermo – Empoli
Both sides are performing better than they had been expected to on their returns to the top-flight, and with just over a third of the season remaining, both are well on course for safety. Palermo are level on points with Milan and Torino in ninth. Empoli are a little further back but, after thrashing Chievo last weekend, still seven points clear of the relegation zone.
The Tuscans have drawn away to Milan and Roma in the last month, but getting a point here will still be a tall order. Although Palermo are without their suspended captain, Edgar Barreto, they boast the third-best home record in the league.
Home win - 2.20
Sassuolo – Lazio
Consecutive wins have nudged Lazio back into contention for a top-three finish, and goalkeeper Federico Marchetti asserted on Wednesday that this was the strongest team he had ever played for. The Biancocelesti finished fourth in his first season with the club – the 2011-12 campaign – but that was in a season when 20 points separated second from third.
The competition is rather fiercer this season, as reflected by the fact that 12th-placed Sassuolo have already taken points off both of the top two. They gave Lazio all they could handle at the Stadio Olimpico in October, before eventually succumbing 3-2. Stefano Pioli’s team will be happy to have Dusan Basta back from illness at right-back, but even with him this will not be a comfortable afternoon.
Home win – 3.40
Inter – Fiorentina
All five of Italy’s Europa League representatives made it through to the last-16 of that competition on Thursday, and as fate would have it, four of them will face off against one another this Sunday. Inter and Fiorentina lead things off in the 5pm game, and both clubs arrive in strong form. The Nerazzurri have won three straight in Serie A, while their opponents are seven games unbeaten.
Mohamed Salah is the man of the moment for Fiorentina, his goal against Tottenham representing not only a vital intervention in that tie, but also his third goal in four games. He may start on the bench this weekend, as Montella seeks to allow him a rest, but against opponents whose defence was frail enough to give up three goals at Celtic Park last week, he might still be worth keeping an eye on as a substitute.
Salah to score – 4.80
Torino – Napoli
Torino achieved something quite extraordinary on Thursday night, becoming the first Italian team ever to defeat Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés. They did it in hugely entertaining fashion, too, twice having leads wiped out before finally sealing a 3-2 win (and a 5-4 aggregate victory) on a fine backpost volley from Matteo Darmian. (https://vine.co/v/O21BnM6Vqgu)
You would have to imagine that they woke up on Friday morning feeling a good deal more exhausted than Napoli, who were able to stroll their way through their own 1-0 second-leg win over Trabzonspor after torching the Turkish side 4-0 in the away leg. But Torino are playing brilliant, cohesive football at the moment, and I still fancy them to take something from this game.
Draw – 3.25