Empoli – Sampdoria
For the third week running, Sinisa Mihajlovic afforded Sampdoria’s players an unexpected day off – informing them on arrival at their Bogliasco training ground on Friday that training had been cancelled. The strategy has yielded mixed results so far but on paper, at least, makes sense. Samp’s thin squad has been stretched by injury during this final phase of the campaign, and they did appear to tire during the second-half of last week’s loss to Lazio.
Empoli have put in some impressive home performances this season, including a 4-2 win over Napoli at the end of last month. But they have also lost both of their last two games, and have slipped into a more relaxed mode since securing top-flight safety.
Away win and both teams to score – 5.00
Cesena – Cagliari
At one stage this looked likely to be a relegation six-pointer. Instead, both teams have already been sunk, Cagliari’s final hopes evaporating with a home loss to Palermo last weekend.
Both managers still have points to prove, however. Cesena’s Domenico Di Carlo insisted in the last few days that he had always viewed his job as a long-term project, while Cagliari’s caretaker Gianluca Festa has stated his eagerness to continue in Serie B next year. Now that the worst has occurred, both teams might feel able to play with the handbrake off.
Over 2.5 goals – 1.59
Chievo – Atalanta
Cagliari’s relegation means Atalanta are finally safe. They earned their top-flight status with a string of resilient performances this spring – going six games unbeaten (even if they did only win two of them) between early April and the middle of May.
It is natural to assume that motivation might dip now that they have crossed the finish line. It is also logical to suggest that they will be damaged by suspensions to both of their top two goalscorers – Germán Denis and Mauricio Pinilla – as well as a starting midfielder – Carlos Carmona – and the latter player’s potential replacement – Giulio Migliaccio.
Home team to win without conceding a goal – 3.70
Palermo – Fiorentina
Paulo Dybala’s move to Juventus has been confirmed by all parties but, after sitting out Palermo’s win at Cagliari last week, he is expected to return to the Sicilians’ starting XI this weekend for a farewell appearance in front of their own fans.
Whether it is enough to kick Palermo out of their recent home slump remains to be seen. They have taken just five points from their last six games at the Barbera, and will be missing emerging midfield talent Ivaylo Chocev through suspension.
Away win – 2.10
Parma – Verona
The end of the line is in sight. Parma have made it to the final home game of the season, and that in itself is an achievement given how bleak the outlook was back in February. But administrators are yet to find a buyer for the club. Bids will be invited – at a starting price of €6.28m – when Parma are put up for auction one last time next week, but none have been received at any of four such events so far.
The players will continue to give their all on Sunday, as they have in every other game so far, but despite some high-profile successes this squad has also shown its limitations of late – shipping 13 goals in its last four outings. Verona have lost only one of their last six away from home.
Draw – 3.30
Udinese – Sassuolo
Udinese will take to the pitch in a specially-designed half-and-half strip, combining their colours with those of the women’s team Castelfranco Calcio in a show of support for the women’s game. In the wake of the unpleasant remarks that were reportedly made by a senior Italian football official, the gesture is a welcome one.
The duel between one of Italian football’s great veteran strikers – Antonio Di Natale – and two emerging stars at the position – Simone Zaza and Domenico Berardi – also appeals. The latter player is most in form, having found the net six times in his last seven appearances.
Berardi to score – 3.20
Milan – Torino
The season cannot finish soon enough for Milan, who are at risk of making this the worst campaign of the Silvio Berlusconi era. They presently sit 11th – which is the lowest that they have finished in any campaign under the former Prime Minister. A loss on Sunday, combined with a Verona victory, would drop them down to 12th.
That scenario is plausible, but I suspect it will not unfold. Torino are not playing now with the same verve that they displayed earlier in this campaign, and their list of absences this weekend will be considerable – with Nikola Maksimovic suspended and Fabio Quagliarella, Cesare Bovo and Alexander Farnerud all injured.
Home win – 2.45