Serie A Preview: The Three Games that Will Impact the Scudetto and European Qualification

Serie A

This weekend contains three meaningful games in which each team is competing for their respective objective. It begins on Friday at 2:45 pm EST (7:45 pm GMT) with European hopefuls Atalanta hosting league-leading Juventus at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. This game is being played on Friday in anticipation of Juventus’ Champions League first leg semi-finals against Monaco. Regardless of this fact, I expect Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri to field his best possible squad because of the danger posed by their opponent. Juventus will revert back to the 4-2-3-1 formation with the return of Gianluigi Buffon in goal and the attacking quartet of Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Juan Cuadrado to start up front. In defence, the regular centre-back pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will be flanked by Dani Alves and Alex Sandro. The latest reports state that Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini will adapt his 3-4-3 formation for a more defensive 3-4-2-1 system with Alejandro “Papu” Gomez as the false nine. He used a similar formation in a 1-1 draw away to Roma earlier this month. It is the correct approach considering that Juventus have scored eleven goals in their last five games.

Prediction: Both teams are averaging two goals per game in their last five matches so I expect a high scoring affair with Juventus’ will to win being the difference. Atalanta 3-4 Juventus.

TV coverage in North America: BeIn Sports, RAI Italia

The Sunday morning in North America (6:30 am EST [11:30 am GMT]) beings with the always entertaining Derby della Capitale. Roma need to collect maximum points in their remaining games if they have any hope of closing the gap on Juventus. Lazio seek three points to confirm their place in next year’s Europa League. Roma manager Luciano Spaletti will probably field his squad in a 4-3-3 formation with Edin Dzeko to start even after his outburst after being subbed off in their last game against Pescara. He will most likely be flanked by Diego Perotti and Mohamed Salah, who will provide the service and speed down the wings. In Lazio’s most recent victory against Roma, manager Simone Ingazhi used a 3-5-2 system and counter-attacked whenever Roma conceded possession high up the field. Ciro Immobile, who currently has twenty goals this season, will start up front alongside Keita Balde, who scored a hat-trick in their last game against Palermo. One can also hope that the eternal Francesco Totti can make another appearance in the Roman Derby.

Prediction: The Roman Derbies are difficult to predict, but I have a feeling that Lazio will be more disciplined and focused than Roma. Roma 0-2 Lazio.

TV coverage in North America: BeIN Sports, RAI Italia

The weekend concludes on Sunday afternoon with perhaps the most interesting game to watch as a neutral: Inter at home to Napoli (2:45 pm EST [7:45 pm GMT]). Inter are looking to break their winless streak, which nearly forced the resignation of their manager Stefano Pioli, and to stay alive in the race for European qualification. They will be looking to their captain Mauro Icardi to continue to provide the goals to make up for their lack of defensive rigidity. Inter will definitely be hoping for a strong defensive performance if they have any chance of winning against the highest scoring team in Serie A. Napoli are seeking to overtake Roma for second place and avoid the qualifying round of the Champions League. Their manager Maurizio Sarri will be pleased that he must choose between Dries Mertens, who has scored twenty-two goals this season, and Arkadiusz Milik, who scored for the first time since returning from his knee injury. Expect Mertens to win the start up front alongside Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon. They will be supported in midfield by Jorginho, who has completed at least one hundred passes in his last five games.

Prediction: It would be equivalent to a sporting miracle if Inter comes away with a victory against a superior Napoli. Inter 1-3 Napoli.

TV coverage in North America: RAI Italia