Fiorentina vs Inter
The Nerazzuri’s recent form has been a real concern for coach Luciano Spalletti but despite their recent struggles there is no doubt they’ve improved significantly under the former Roma boss. Recent defeats at the hands of Udinese, Sassuolo and their arch rivals Milan in the cup have all contributed to a disappointing few weeks.
Borja Valero returns to his former club this weekend, the club he once said he wanted to retire at and all eyes will be on him given his unsavory departure. The feeling amongst the Fiorentina supporters is that he was miss-treated by the club and so it will be interesting to see what sort of reception he will receive upon his return to the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The last five meetings between the two sides have produced no less than 26 goals and so you can expect an entertaining encounter. Inter face a difficult fixture versus Roma in week 21 so picking up all 3 points on Friday night is a must for Spalletti’s men.
Napoli vs Verona
The league leaders were eliminated from the Coppa Italia by Atalanta during the week but it’s fair to say Serie A was always their priority. Long term absentee Faouzi Ghoulam remains sidelined and Mario Rui’s fitness is now in question. Elseid Hysaj could move to the left hand side of the defense and that would see Christian Maggio slotting in at right back.
Verona, like their opponents are desperate for league points all be it to serve a totally different purpose. They’ve won just 3 matches this season but given the abysmal form of some of their closest competitors they still have a real chance of survival. Their recent performances have been encouraging and having defeated Milan and performed relatively well against the mighty Juventus they’ve not given up hope just yet.
Napoli in theory should register a comfortable home win and will look to talisman Marek Hamsik who will be raring to go having broken Diego Maradona’s goal scoring record for the club recently.
Cagliari vs Juventus
Juventus have recovered from their early season stutter and are turning up the heat on league leaders Napoli. The Italian media have been full of praise for defender Medhi Benatia who has settled in extremely well and replaced the once indispensible Leonardo Bonucci.
Miralem Pjanic has also been instrumental in their significant improvement of late and the Old Lady are firm favorites to leave the capital of Sardinia with maximum points.
Allegri’s side will be without Gigi Buffon, Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio and Benedikt Howedes but we expect Gonzalo Higuain, Andrea Barzagli and Alex Sandro to return having been rested in the cup.
Juventus undoubtedly have the greatest strength in depth and have the luxury of being able to rotate where necessary. That is indeed why many still regard them as title favorites despite them having been chasing Napoli for the most part of the season.
Cagliari sit 5 points clear of the drop zone going into this fixture but unless they begin picking up points fast they could easily slip into the relegation dog fight, one of the tightest we’ve seen in years.
Roma vs Atalanta
Roma have won just 2 of their last 6 Serie A games and are now 9 points from the top. It’s important to note they have a game in hand but nonetheless they will be disappointed with how things have gone of late. This week’s opponents Atalanta find themselves in the semi finals of the Coppa Italia having eliminated league leaders Napoli but in the league their away form has been a problem.
Roma’s defense is the most stubborn Serie A has to offer having conceded just 12 goals thus far but Atalanta forward Papu Gomez will provide a stern test for Di Francesco’s rearguard.
My instincts point to a draw but given the gap that is starting to develop between the top two and Roma you have to believe they will go out there desperate to claim all 3 points and stay in contention. If the Giallorossi were to drop further points this weekend we could start to see the top 2 disappearing off into the distance.
Benevento vs Sampdoria, Chievo vs Udinese, Genoa vs Sassuolo, Milan vs Crotone, Spal vs Lazio & Torino vs Bologna.