Italian Serie A’s Games of the Week: Juventus and Napoli Renew Hostilities and Can Atalanta Continue Their European Dream?

Serie A

Historical rivals Juventus and Napoli will face off twice in four days as the Neapolitan hosts seek to reopen the Scudetto chase and overturn a 3-1 aggregate deficit in the second leg of the Coppa Italia. Atalanta, this season’s surprise story, play away to a struggling Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. They seek to continue their chase for a top-five finish and qualification in next season’s European competitions. Their direct challenger, Inter, play on Monday against a tricky Sampdoria side. Lazio, currently sitting in fourth place, face off against Sassuolo and need a win to continue to fight off the threat from Inter and Atalanta. Roma will play Empoli on Saturday and will need to secure the three points. They will be hoping that Juventus and Napoli drop points so that they can close the gap in the Scudetto chase and increase their lead on the last direct qualification spot for next year’s Champions League group stage. Finally, Milan, who are on the outside looking in for the European spots, will travel to the Stadio Adriatico to face off against Pescara, who are struggling to climb out of the relegation zone.

Napoli versus Juventus

Game Venue: Stadio San Paolo – Naples, Italy
Date and Time: April 2nd, 2017 – 2:45pm EST (7:45pm GMT)

This game will be the first of two in four days between Napoli and Juventus. If Juventus wins, it is three points closer to clinching a 6th straight Scudetto. If Napoli wins, they will potential close the gap on Roma and reopen the title chase. It will be interesting how both managers will approach the game because of the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday. Juventus will play their best starting eleven in the league game on Sunday because the three extra points will be useful if they continue in the knockout rounds of the Champions League and the final of the Coppa Italia. We should expect an open game with both teams going for the win. Finally, both managers will have to deal with injuries from the international break, as Marko Pjaca has an ACL injury is out for the rest of the season and Elseid Hysaj is a doubt for Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.

Possible Napoli XI (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Hamsik, Zielinski; Callejon, Mertens (Milik), Insigne

Possible Juventus XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Dani Alves, Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Sturaro, Marchisio, Asamoah; Dybala; Higuain, Mandzukic

Prediction: Look for a high scoring affair with both teams to score and over three goals.

Genoa versus Atalanta

Game Venue: Stadio Luigi Ferraris – Genova, Italy
Date and Time: April 2nd, 2017 – 9:00am EST (2:00pm GMT)

Atalanta are seeking to continue their unexpected challenge for the European spots as they travel away to a floundering Genoa side that is struggling to find form or consistency. This may the one of the few remaining straight-forward games left for Atalanta as they must still play Roma and Juventus. Expect Atalanta to place Genoa under heavy pressure, as Genoa will set up to defend for the ninety minutes. This is exactly how Genoa manager Andrea Mandorlini organised his team against Milan. In that game, Genoa barely ventured forward and only looked to close down the spaces in the midfield. Atalanta will look to Papu Gomez and Andrea Petagna to unlock Genoa’s defence. Genoa will be hoping that Giovanni Simeone can lead the line and poach a goal or two to steal a valuable point to stave off a relegation battle.

Possible Genoa XI (4-1-4-1): Lamanna; Izzo, Munoz, Gentiletti, Laxalt; Cataldi; Lazovic, Hiljemark, Ntcham, Taarabt; Simeone

Possible Atalanta XI (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Toloi, Caladra, Masiello; Conti, Kessié, Freuler, Spinazzola; Grassi; Petagna, Gomez

Prediction: I think Atalanta can claim the three points with a narrow 1-0 win.

Inter versus Sampdoria

Game Venue: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza – Milan, Italy
Date and Time: April 3rd, 2017 – 2:45pm EST (7:45pm GMT)

Inter will seek to improve on their performance against Torino, as they gave up the lead and stumbled to a 2-2 draw away from home. If Suning Holdings Group want to keep their ambitious plans for Inter, then it is required that the club qualifies for next year’s European competition. Therefore, Stefano Pioli’s squad cannot drop any more points against sides that are below them in the table. The game against Sampdoria will certainly be similar to their game against Torino, as Inter will face a squad that is not afraid to venture and have a habit of being exposed on the counter-attack. Sampdoria will go into this game with nothing to lose as they are sitting comfortably at mid-table. Luis Muriel suffered an injury during international duty with Colombia, thus Patrik Schick may be in line for a rare start. Inter’s Gary Medel may still be a doubt with a thigh strain he suffered during the game against Torino.

Possible Inter XI (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Murillo (Medel), Miranda, Ansaldi; Gagliardini, Kondogbia; Candreva, Banega, Perisic; Icardi

Possible Sampdoria XI (4-3-1-2): Puggioni; Sala, Silvestre, Skriniar, Regini; Barreto, Torreira, Linetty; Bruno Fernandes; Schick (Djuricic), Quagliarella

Prediction: Inter’s desperation and home-field advantage will be enough for Inter to secure the three points with a 2-1 win.

Sassuolo versus Lazio

Game Venue: MAPEI Stadium – Citta del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Date and Time: April 1st, 2017 – 12:00pm EST (5:00pm GMT)

Lazio will look to improve on their disappointing draw with Cagliari when they travel to the MAPEI Stadium to face a youthful Sassuolo squad. They need these three points to stay in the European spots, as they are only two points above Inter for fourth place in the standings. This game will not be easy for Lazio, as Sassuolo have been known to cause some upsets. Lazio will come out attacking to exploit Sassuolo’s weak defence record. Sassuolo will look to quickly counter-attack Lazio because they will inevitably seek to control possession and the tempo of the game. Lazio should pay attention to Gregoire Defrel, as he will spearhead Sassuolo’s attack.

Possible Sassuolo XI (4-3-3): Consigli; Letschert, Acerbi, Peluso, Dell’Orco; Pellegrini, Missiroli, Duncan; Politano, Defrel, Berardi

Possible Lazio XI (4-3-3): Strakosha; Basta, de Vrij, Hoedt, Radu; Parolo, Biglia, Lulic; Anderson, Immobile, Keita

Prediction: Lazio will be too strong for Sassuolo and should come out 2-1 winners

Roma versus Empoli

Game Venue: Stadio Olimpico – Rome, Italy
Date and Time: April 1st, 2017 – 2:45pm EST (7:45pm GMT)

Roma will be looking for a straightforward win against Empoli at Stadio Olimpico going into the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final with Lazio on Tuesday. Due to the inferiority of their opponent, Roma will rotate their starting eleven to replace the injured Daniele De Rossi and rest such players as Edin Dzeko and Kevin Strootman in the hopes of overturning a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. This game will be a character test for Roma, as these three points would ensure that they maintain the two-point over Napoli and keep control of second place and direct qualification to the group stage of the Champions League. Empoli will need a miracle to pick up a result against Roma, as they have only picked up seven of their twenty-two point total so far. They will seek to play ten men behind the ball and look to secure a point from their visit to Rome

Possible Roma XI (3-4-1-2): Szczesny; Rudiger, Fazio, Manolas; Mario Rui; Paredes, Grenier, Emerson; Nainggolan, Salah, El Shaarawy

Possible Empoli XI (4-3-1-2): Skorupski; Laurini, Bellusci, Costa, Pasqual; Krunic, Diousse, Croce; El Kaddouri; Maccarone, Pucciarelli

Prediction: Roma should finish the game with a 3-0 victory.

Pescara versus Milan

Game Venue: Stadio Adriatico – Pescara, Italy
Date and Time: April 2nd, 2017 – 9:00am EST (2:00pm GMT)

Milan head to the Stadio Adriatico with the hope of collecting all three points to maintain their hopes to qualify for next season’s Europe League. Meanwhile, Pescara, who are all but officially relegated, are playing for pride. Pescara manager Zdenek Zeman has been confirmed for next season, regardless if Pescara survives or gets relegated to Serie B. This fixture will be a challenge for Milan because it would be easy to underestimate Pescara and assume that the three points are already secured. Their Abruzzese opponents are no pushovers due to their all-out attacking play that has become synonymous with Zeman. Milan will, of course, look to Carlos Bacca to provide the main offence threat. He will be supported by Gerard Deulofeu and Suso, who have resurrected their careers at Milan. Expect Deulofeu to run a riot on Pescara’s defence, who have the worst goal against record in Serie A. If Milan drop any points from this game, they might as well abandon any hope they have for European qualification too.

Possible Pescara XI (4-3-3): Bizzarri; Crescenzi, Bovo, Coda, Biraghi; Verre, Muntari, Memushaj; Zampano, Cerri, Benali

Possible Milan XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; De Sciglio, Zapata, Paletta, Vangioni; Kucka, Locatelli, Mati Fernandez; Ocampos, Bacca, Deulofeu

Prediction: Milan’s organisation and attacking trident will be too much for Pescara to cope with. I think Milan will the game 3-0.