Chievo – Verona
There will be nothing more than bragging rights at stake in this season’s second Derby di Verona, and both teams will be perfectly satisfied with that scenario. Each has exceeded (modest) expectations by preserving its top-flight status with four games to spare.
Luca Toni has described Chievo, one point ahead in the standings, as favourites, pointing out that “they never concede any goals”. It is only a slight exaggeration. The Flying Donkeys have the fourth-best defensive record in the league, and have kept seven clean sheets in their last 10 games. But Verona have Toni, whose 12 goals in 13 games have kept him right on Carlos Tevez’s heels in the race to become Serie A’s capocannoniere.
Toni to score – 3.10
Cesena – Sassuolo
Cesena are not yet mathematically relegated, just as Sassuolo are not yet mathematically safe from the drop. In practice, though, only a miracle will rescue the former, and only a catastrophic sequence of results could sink the latter. This might as well be a dead rubber.
There are scant few reasons to believe that either team will perform above its circumstances. Cesena have not won a game since 1 March. Sassuolo have two points from their last five games, and no goals in the last two. A festival of football will probably not be on the agenda.
At least one team fails to score – 2.04
Palermo – Atalanta
Progress has been slow, but for Atalanta the finish line is within sight. If Cagliari were to lose to Juventus on Saturday, then a victory here would be enough to secure top-flight safety for another season.
Not that winning in Sicily will be straightforward. Palermo have lost momentum during this final third of the campaign, but have suffered just three home defeats all season. They have most of their starting XI available, whereas Atalanta will be missing their leading scorer, Germán Denis, and first-choice goalkeeper, Marco Sportiello. The latter player’s back-up, Stefano Sorrentino, is also unavailable after sustaining minor injuries in a car accident this week.
Home win – 2.12
Udinese – Sampdoria
Sinisa Mihajlovic cancelled Sampdoria’s training session on Thursday. This was ostensibly a reward for his players’ hard work earlier in the week, but might also have been an attempt to shake them out of a negative routine. Samp have not won in six matches, and though they continue to occupy a Europa League spot for now (sixth will get in due to both Coppa Italia finalists having already qualified for continental competition), their position is under threat from Genoa, Inter and Torino.
Suspensions to Pedro Obiang, Alessio Romagnoli and Lorenzo De Silvestri damage their chances of getting a result at the Stadio Friuli, where they have not won since 2010, but the hosts are themselves without Allan and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Such absences will harm both sides’ defensive solidity.
Over 2.5 goals – 2.08
Empoli – Fiorentina
Fiorentina’s hopes of Europa League glory – and with it passage to next season’s Champions League – suffered a body blow in Seville on Thursday night. It is hard to imagine the Viola recovering from their 3-0 first-leg deficit, but Vincenzo Montella’s refusal to wave the white flag at full-time suggests that he will once again rest players in Serie A to give his team the best possible chance of a miraculous turnaround.
Empoli, though, are not a team to be taken lightly. They have sunk Napoli and Torino in their last two outings.
Home team to win and both teams to score – 4.90
Parma – Napoli
Aggrieved at the offside goal that denied them victory over Dnipro, Napoli need to put their frustrations aside and maintain focus. Rafa Benítez’s side remain very much alive in their Europa League semi-final, but must equally make sure they beat Parma and keep the pressure on Lazio in the race for a top-three Serie A finish.
Parma’s spirit might appear to be broken after consecutive 4-0 defeats, but they have roused themselves for big games this season – beating Juventus, Fiorentina and Inter, as well as drawing with Roma. On balance, I expect them to lose, but the odds might just tempt me into taking the long shot.
Home win – 9.00
Lazio – Inter
Stefan De Vrij returns, and not a moment too soon. Since their eight-game winning streak came to an end, Lazio have looked surprisingly vulnerable – dropping points against Chievo and Atalanta. It is no coincidence that they were victorious on each of De Vrij’s last six appearances, conceding only a single goal along the way.
Inter still have a Europa League place to play for, but it is indicative of the mood around the club that the only stories being written about them in the national Italian press relate to transfers that may or may not happen this summer. They lack Lazio’s urgency at this stage of the campaign, and perhaps their quality as well.
Home win – 1.85
Genoa – Torino
Monday night brings a head-to-head between two Europa League aspirants, and Genoa will mark the occasion with a new commemorative shirt which honours their first-ever Scudetto – won in Turin back in 1898. They sit two points ahead of their opponents for now, but Torino have lost only one away game in Serie A since last November.
With Diego Perotti out injured, Genoa’s hopes have rested in great part on the form of Iago Falqué. His four goals in six games have helped to reignite a campaign that at one stage appeared to be stalling.
Falqué to score – 3.45