Chievo - Milan
Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan side will travel to the Stadio Bentegodi expecting nothing less than three points. However, after struggling to dispatch lowly Lecce, Ancelotti will surely not need to remind the Rossoneri to respect a Chievo side that has built a reputation for humbling the giants of Serie A. Despite slightly disappointing performances in Weeks 12 and 13, the hosts will look to again demonstrate their renowned resolve and frustrate their more illustrious counterparts.
Despite his side’s flirtation with the UEFA Cup places, Chievo Coach Beppe Pillon has remained focused only on his pre-season objective of survival and will be aware that the biggest challenges are still ahead. After an unexpectedly successful start to the campaign, Chievo have hit patchy form of late with four draws from five matches.
The Flying Donkeys were fortunate to take a point from Livorno and Pillon will need to inspire a much greater effort from his men if they are to avenge last season’s 1-0 defeat in this fixture. One Gialloblu player will certainly not lack motivation. Azzurrini midfielder Paolo Sammarco will be determined to prove himself against the club who co-own him.
Although Milan appeared to put Week 12’s defeat in Florence behind them by thumping Fenerbahçe in the Champions League, they were far from convincing against Lecce where they needed a last gasp winner from Filippo Inzaghi. Ancelotti, who will be determined to take advantage of the fact that either Fiorentina or Juventus must drop points, has no new injury worries but must still do without Kakà for the trip to Verona.
An injury to Lorenzo D’Anna is Pillon’s only new concern. Veteran goalkeeper Alberto Fontana is still sidelined and long-term absentees Matteo Brighi and Franco Semioli remain out of contention.
Chievo (probable)(16maalia): Squizzi(1/-/1/-); Moro(11/-/-/-), Mandelli(13/-/-/2), Scurto(-/1/2/-), Lanna(13/-/-/-); Luciano(-/2/3/-), Sammarco(6/1/5/-), Giunti(9/4/1/-), Franceschin(7/6/-/3)i; Amauri(9/2/2/2), Pellissier(1/8/3/5)
Milan (probable)(29m): Dida(13ott); Stam(7/3/-/-), Nesta(8/1/-/-), Maldini(10/-/-/2), Serginho(9/1/2/-); Gattuso(6/3/3/1), Pirlo(8/2/1/3), Seedorf(4/7/2/2); Rui Costa(3/2/3/-), Gilardino(6/5/-/8), Shevchenko(6/3/-/3)
Fiorentina - Juventus
After Thursday’s dress rehearsal in the Coppa Italia, one of Serie A’s oldest and bitterest rivalries will truly resurface when Fiorentina and Juventus meet at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Although a frenzied atmosphere is inevitable for this clash, there will be an added intensity this season as both sets of fans can legitimately harbour Scudetto aspirations. Having already beaten Milan, the Viola will feel they are capable of upsetting the leaders, but there can be no doubt that this will be Coach Cesare Prandelli’s biggest task to date.
Fiorentina have been without a doubt the surprise package of the season. Despite Prandelli’s insistence that his side cannot compete with the giants, the Viola have a perfect home record and expectations have risen to a point where last week’s 1-1 draw with Roma was a real disappointment. Victory over Juventus would surely see Prandelli’s realism fall by the wayside and Fiorentina emerge as true Scudetto contenders.
As if the Artemio Franchi encounter was not appetising enough, there is a history of high scoring matches between the two sides. Last year’s fixture ended in an action-packed 3-3 draw with defender Giorgio Chiellini on target for Fiorentina, this time he lines up for the visitors. With Serie A’s two top scorers Luca Toni and David Trezeguet both on the field this promises to be another game full of goalmouth incident.
Juventus have won five of their six games away from home and although Fabio Capello’s side were not at their best in last week’s 3-1 victory over Treviso, they will take heart from the excellent performances of Adrian Mutu and Christian Abbiati. The men from Turin also have a history of rising to the big occasion.
Prandelli has a fully fit squad at his disposal, with the exception of long-term casualty Guilherme Do Prado, and will field his strongest side. Capello welcomes back Patrick Vieira and Lilian Thuram from suspension. Gigi Buffon is likely to start on the bench despite his return from injury.
Fiorentina (probable)(28m): Frey(13ott); Ujfalusi(13/-/-/1), Di Loreto(13/-/-/-), Dainelli(8/1/1/-), Pasqual(6/1/3/-); Brocchi(10/3/-/2), Donadel(10/2/-/1), Fiore(4/9/-/3), Montolivo(-/3/1/-), Jorgensen(9/2/2/3); Toni (12/1/-/16)
Juventus (probable)(29m): Abbiati(8/3/1/-); Zambrotta(12/-/-/-), Thuram(6/1/-/-), Cannavaro(13/-/-/-), Chiellini(5/-/2/-); Camoranesi(7/1/5/2), Emerson(12/-/1/-), Vieira(9/-/-/3), Nedved(7/4/1/2); Trezeguet(2/8/1/10), Ibrahimovic (6/4/2/2)
Inter - Ascoli
Marco Giampaolo’s Ascoli side will travel to the San Siro for their clash with Inter knowing that they have a mountain to climb if they are to come away with anything. Despite inconsistency on their travels, the Nerazzurri have been solid at home and have recently shown signs of finding form. Roberto Mancini will be well aware that once again nothing less than a victory is acceptable and will look to his side to continue their recent improvement.
After an encouraging start to life in Serie A, Giampaolo’s minnows have struggled recently. The Bianconeri have gone six games without a win and, for a side yet to take three points away from home, there can be few more daunting places to visit. However, stubborn defensive performances earned draws with Chievo and Palermo, and although this is an altogether greater task, Giampaolo will have been encouraged by his side’s resilience.
Inter have had a turbulent season and again external events will have to be put to the back of the players’ minds. Accusations of racist abuse by fans are lingering over the San Siro and sanctions may be imposed, possibly meaning more games behind closed doors. Mancini will be determined to make the right kind of headlines and will hope that troubled star Adriano can find some consistency after a season of instability. While wins over Parma, Artmedia Bratislava and Messina have eased the pressure on the Inter boss, he knows his side must perform and can call on a full strength squad to ensure maximum points.
Giampaolo’s already significant injury problems have worsened. Michele Fini joins Mirko Cudini, Valerio Virga, Domenico Cristiano and Daniele Adani on the sidelines. Ex-Inter striker Corrado Colombo will miss out, leaving fellow ex-Nerazzurri marksman Marco Ferrante favourite to start after his goal against Palermo. While Massimo Paci returns from suspension, Nicolas Cordova is still not in the Coach’s plans after his anger at being substituted against Fiorentina in Week 11.
Inter (probable)(24m): Julio Cesar(12ott); J. Zanetti(3/-/-/-), Cordoba(12/1/-/2), Materazzi(9/2/1/1), Favalli(10/2/-/-); Figo(4/7/2/1), Veron(8/1/1/-), Cambiasso(10/1/2/4), Stankovic(6/-/1/1); Martins(4/2/4/2), Adriano(6/4/2/7)
Ascoli (probable)(13m): Coppola;(13ott) Comotto(9/-/-/1), Domizzi(11/-/-/1), Corallo(-/-/-/-), Del Grosso(4/-/4/-); Foggia(4/6/2/1), Guana(8/1/1/-), Parola(8/-/3/-), Della Morte(-/-/2/-); Ferrante(3/2/6/1), Bjelanovic(5/3/3/2)
Lazio - Siena
Delio Rossi’s Lazio will look to finally find some consistency by following a first away win of the season with a victory over a struggling Siena side at the Stadio Olimpico. The Biancocelesti are unbeaten at home and will be confident of building on a thrilling 3-2 win at Empoli. In Siena they face a side on poor form and after a dire 0-0 draw with Reggina, a Coach under pressure.
Siena’s over-dependence on Enrico Chiesa has become very apparent. After a prolific start the veteran striker has hit a slump and in the absence of Tomas Locatelli, the Tuscans have mustered only one goal in the last five games. Despite the club’s modest expectations, just one win in seven outings has led to growing pressure on Coach Luigi De Canio whose side are down to thirteenth. Siena President Paolo De Luca gave De Canio a vote of confidence this week, but stressed that he needs results. The tactician knows he may not have many defeats left.
The mood amongst the Lazio faithful is much more upbeat. Despite worrying pre-season talk of a relegation battle, Delio Rossi has settled in well and guided the Biancocelesti to a comfortable ninth position. Rossi must be delighted by Fabio Liverani’s new enthusiasm for the club and will hope that Igli Tare’s goal against Empoli will allow the Albanian to finally show some confidence in front of goal.
Siena will be without Gianluca Falsini who was dismissed against Reggina. Tomas Locatelli and Francesco Colonnese remain injured and Brazilian Alberto is a doubt. The only good news for De Canio is Paolo Foglio’s return to a depleted squad. By contrast, Delio Rossi has no injury worries.
Lazio (probable)(16m): Peruzzi(8/1/-/-); Oddo(12/1/-/1), Siviglia(9/-/-/1), Cribari(9/-/-/-), Zauri(12/-/-/1); Behrami(5/5/-/-), Dabo(11/-/2/1), Liverani(4/3/-/1), Manfredini(5/1/5/1); Di Canio(1/4/3/-), Rocchi(8/5/-/4)
Siena (probable)(18m): Mirante(13ott); Negro(9/1/2/1), Legrottaglie(12/-/-/-), Portanova(9/1/1/-); Bachini(-/1/3/-), D’Aversa(8/1/-/-), Paro(1/2/2/-), Vergassola(12/-/-/1), Molinaro(1/-/1/-); Bogdani(10/2/1/-), Chiesa(6/4/3/9)
Lecce - Roma
Luciano Spalletti’s Roma will travel to Via Del Mare as favourites but could be forgiven for wishing they had met Lecce a little earlier. Lecce may be propping up the table but after beating Siena and giving Milan a real scare, they are by no means a walk-over. The pressure is certainly on the visitors. Despite the Giallorossi’s recent improvement, nothing less than a win will keep Spalletti safe in the Roma hot-seat.
After a humiliating 4-1 reverse against Juventus and a limp draw with Strasbourg in the UEFA Cup, the Roma fans are far from content. There were demonstrations against Coach Spalletti before the Fiorentina match and the Ultras were barely appeased by a highly creditable draw. In truth, the Roma boss has never won over the fans in a season blighted by inconsistency, but he will hope that the return of Antonio Cassano and Damiano Tommasi can continue to prove a shot in the arm for his underachieving side.
Week 13 was an encouraging yet disappointing weekend for Lecce. After a monumental effort against Milan, Silvio Baldini’s side were very unfortunate to return to the foot of the Serie A table. However, a late Milan winner and an unlikely Cagliari victory over Sampdoria could not hide Lecce’s progress. The side that looked completely out of its depth under Angelo Gregucci may finally be finding its feet and as long as young Serbian striker Mirko Vucinic remains on form they have a cutting edge.
Silvio Baldini’s injury problems have worsened with Alfonso Camorani the latest to be ruled out of action. Guillermo Giacomazzi, Gennaro Del Vecchio, Marco Pecorari and Babù all remain unavailable. Spalletti may choose Cesare Bovo to play against his former club as Philippe Mexes faces suspension.
Lecce (probable)(9m): Sicignano(13ott); Cassetti(11/-/-/-), Diamoutene,(10/-/-/-) Stovini(13/-/-/-), Rullo(5/-/3/-); Giorgino(-/-/3/-), Ledesma(12/1/-/1), Pinardi(4/6/1/3); Konan(7/5/1/3), Vucinic(8/2/1/1), Valdes(-/5/5/-)
Roma (probable)(19m): Doni(6ott); Panucci(12/1/-/3), Kuffour(12/-/-/-), Bovo(3/1/3/-), Cufrè(7/3/1/-); Kharja(-/1/2/-), De Rossi(10/2/-/1), Dacourt(1/4/5/-); Taddei(9/4/-/1), Totti(10/2/-/6), Cassano(1/1/1-)
Palermo - Cagliari
It will be the battle of the Mediterranean islands when Sardinian flag bearers Cagliari travel to Sicily to face Palermo. Despite their League position, current form suggests that the Rossoblu could well provide an upset in this encounter. They have seen a mini revival of late culminating in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Sampdoria. But the journey across the sea could be their downfall, as they are yet to earn a single point on their travels this season.
Once again star man David Suazo will be crucial for Cagliari as he has scored seven of their ten goals this term, but more important will be the ability of their defence to counter the threat of Andrea Caracciolo and Stephen Makinwa. The Sardinian outfit have conceded 15 goals away from home so far, a disastrous record outdone only by crisis club Parma. The Rossoblu will have to be on top form to put a spanner in the works of the Rosanero’s European ambitions.
Palermo will be confident of taking all three points at the Stadio Renzo Barbera as they have lost just once there all season. However the Sicilian side currently find themselves in a slump that has seen them drop down to 11th place in the table. This will be the fifth match since their last win and their inability to overcome lowly Treviso and Ascoli in recent weeks will have left their fans less than impressed. They will need to avoid another disappointing result against one of Serie A’s struggling sides if they want to put themselves back in contention for European qualification.
Palermo (probable)(20m): Guardalben(2/1/-/-); Zaccardo(11/1/1/-), Rinaudo(3/-/1/-), Barzagli(11/-/-/-), Grosso(13/-/-/-); Gonzalez(1/3/6/1), Barone(9/2/1/-), Corini(9/2/-/2), Santana(7/3/1/-); Caracciolo(12/1/-/4), Makinwa(3/9/1/3)
Cagliari (probable)(10m): Campagnolo(5/-/1/-); Bega(12/-/1/-), Canini(12/-/-/-), Bizera(2/-/-/-), Agostini(11/2/-/-); Abeijon(3/5/1/1), Conti,(7/3/-/-) Budel(7/1/3/-), Esposito(10/3/-/1); Suazo(9/3/-/8), Langella(1/3/6/-)
Reggina - Parma
When Reggina host Parma at the Oreste Granillo, Serie A strugglers around the Peninsula will be watching with more interest than usual. This match could help to shape the whole of this year’s relegation battle by defining its boundaries. As it stands these two create a four point gap between the bottom five sides and the rest of the top flight and a win for the Reggio Calabrian outfit could see those below them become isolated at the foot of the table.
None of the League’s underachievers will fancy having to overcome a possible seven-point deficit to move out of the danger zone, but likewise none will welcome a Gialloblu victory. With just two points separating the last five places, even a draw for one of the teams involved can drastically change the appearance of the table.
This means that Parma can ill afford another defeat, especially as a win would give them the opportunity to put another club between themselves and the drop. They will need to shore up their defence for this match as nobody in Serie A has currently conceded more goals than the Gialloblu. They have also lost every game away from the Tardini and a continuation of that trend could see them fall into the relegation zone.
Reggina will be hoping that their recent home form will be enough to overcome their struggling opponents and help them add to their safety net. The Amaranto have been gradually moving clear of the relegation dogfight all season and this is their biggest opportunity yet to separate themselves from the tightly fought battle below them. Recent home wins over Lazio and Cagliari have been crucial and the tifosi will be hoping that the influential Francesco Cozza can lead them to another vital win in this encounter.
Reggina (probable)(13m): Pavarini(8/-/1/-); Franceschini(9/1/1/-), De Rosa(12/-/-/-), Lanzaro(6/1/1/-); Mesto(11/1/-/-), Lucarelli(7/2/2/-), Tedesco(8/1/-/-), Modesto(10/-/2/-); Vigiani(7/4/2/-), Cozza(6/6/-/5); Amoruso(4/-/1/2)
Parma (probable)(11m): Lupatelli(5/1/1/-); Coly(1/-/-/-), Cardone(12/-/-/-), Contini(12/-/-/-), Pasquale(10/3/-/-); Marchionni(3/3/1/1), Simplicio(11/2/-/2), Bolano(1/3/1/-), Bresciano(6/3/1/1); Morfeo(6/2/1/1); Corradi(11/1/1/2)
Sampdoria - Empoli
When Sampdoria play Empoli it will see two of this season’s striking revelations come face to face. Francesco Tavano and Emiliano Bonazzoli have both forced their way into the limelight with their prolific strike rates. The pair have a huge influence over their club’s fortunes and have seen defeat just once each in games they have scored in, single handedly earning their teams a combined 17 points in the process.
They currently sit third and fourth in the scorers’ charts. With Luca Toni the only Italian to have scored more goals, they will both be desperate for another top-notch performance to help their push for Marcello Lippi’s Azzurri squad. With the World Cup looming ever closer it is the Genoa based hitman that seems to have the best chance of a ticket to Germany, but it is Tavano who has stood out from the crowd, scoring more than the rest of his teammates combined.
Bonazzoli will once again be important for the Blucerchiati as they try to bounce back from last week’s disappointing defeat at the hands of Cagliari. That loss saw them drop out of the European qualification places and Coach Walter Novellino will be eager to see his side move back up the table. But Novellino will also be looking nervously over his shoulder in the knowledge that a defeat here would be costly. With the mid-table positions so close, a loss could see them fall a whole five places into the bottom half of the table.
Empoli will also be well aware of how tight the middle places are but for very different reasons. Currently in 12th position, a win would see them draw level with seventh placed Samp. The Azzurri are showing that they are more than capable of competing at the highest level and are quickly shedding their yo-yo side stigma. While their recent matches have seen a slight drop in form and League position, they have still lost just one away match since September, a record that is making some of Serie A’s more established sides green with envy.
Sampdoria (probable)(23m): Antonioli(13ott); Zenoni(10/2/-/-), Castellini(13/-/-/-), Sala(6/-/-/-), Pisano(10/1/1/-); Diana(6/3/3/4), Volpi(12/-/-/2), Dalla Bona(3/2/5/-), Tonetto(4/7/1/1); Zauli(-/5/3/-), Bonazzoli(8/5/-/8)
Empoli (probable)(17m): Berti(13ott); Lucchini(6/2/-/-), Coda(13/-/-/-), Pratali(8/-/-/-), Bonetto(11/1/-/1); Almiron(9/3/1/2), Lodi(1/1/2/-), Moro(2/1/7/-); Tavano(8/4/1/9), Vannucchi(5/6/1/1); Rigano(4/6/1/2)
Treviso - Messina
When Messina travel to Treviso it will see them involved in yet another relegation dogfight. With only two points separating the bottom five teams in Serie A, this pair will be well aware of how important this match could be, especially with the current mini-League format for separating teams joint on points. Just ask any Bologna fan how costly their defeats at the hands of Parma and Fiorentina were last season.
Both of these sides seem to have a knack for relegation encounters with neither having so far lost to another side in the bottom five. Both have already drawn with Parma and Cagliari, with Messina also beating Lecce in Week 10. This would suggest that a draw could again be on the cards, but don’t expect either side to be content with that as they will be desperate to give themselves much needed points.
Treviso had been showing some encouraging signs of a fight-back before they were swept aside by the all-conquering Juventus last week. Before that acceptable loss, draws with Palermo and Cagliari, plus a 2-1 win over Reggina, had moved them off the foot of the table for the first time since their unorthodox promotion. They will be eager to continue that trend and move out of the relegation zone altogether with a victory over their fellow strugglers.
Messina are now hanging precariously above the relegation zone. Joint on points with Cagliari, their superior goal difference is all that is keeping them safe, and that will count for little come the end of the season. After three defeats in a row, the Giallorossi will be looking for only their second away win of the season to kick-start their campaign and give them three crucial points.
Treviso (probable)(8m): Zancope(10ott); Galeoto(6/3/-/-), Gustavo(4/-/1/-), Cottafava(11/-/-/-), Dossena(6/3/-/-); A Filippini(6/4/2/-), Parravicini(5/5/2/2), Gallo(11/2/-/-), E Filippini(6/3/2/-); Pinga(4/4/2/1); Reginaldo(5/4/4/2)
Messina (probable)(11m): Storari(12ott); Zoro(7/3/1/1), Rezaei(13/-/-/-), Cristante(7/-/1/-), Aronica(13/-/-/-); Coppola(8/3/-/-), Donati(10/2/-/1); Sculli(4/4/3/-), D’Agostino(3/5/4/3), Iliev(1/4/3/-); Zampagna(4/3/-/1)
Udinese - Livorno
When Udinese host Livorno at the Stadio Friuli it could have a big influence over this season’s eventual UEFA Cup qualifiers. With Livorno currently in fifth place and Udinese just two points behind, both clubs will be hoping to be taking part in European competition next season. A defeat for either side in this match though and they could have a hard fight ahead of them in order to achieve their goal.
Even if European qualification wasn’t on the Granata’s agenda at the start of their campaign, their good form has certainly made it an aim now - even if it isn’t a priority. They have taken full advantage of the tight mid-table situation and the poor form of potential European candidates like Roma and Palermo to reach new heights. Their main worry will be that they are far more comfortable at home than they are away from the Tuscan hills. They have won just once away from home and will need to put this right against Udinese or risk losing their advantage in the race for Europe.
Udinese Coach Serse Cosmi has encountered his fair share of problems this season, but by far the most pleasant must be his striking selection dilemma. After already having to choose between three Azzurri internationals in Vincenzo Iaquinta, Antonio Di Natale and David Di Michele, Paulo Barretto has now added his name to the list. The Brazilian scored both goals in Sunday’s win over Parma in only his third start of the season to firmly stake his claim for a lengthier spell in the first team.
Whoever gets the nod to play in this encounter, you can bet that they will be desperate to perform well to secure their place in the side, something that doesn’t bode well for Livorno. The Granata will also be well aware that the only teams to have come away from the Stadio Friuli with all three points this season are Inter and Juventus.
Udinese (probable)(15m): De Sanctis(12ott); Bertotto(11/-/-/-), Sensini(8/-/-/-), Felipe(13/-/-/1); Zenoni(7/3/1/-), Vidigal(5/3/2/2), Mauri(4/2/2/3), Obodo(7/2/2/-), Candela(8/3/1/1); Iaquinta(8/2/1/3), Barretto(-3/4/2)
Livorno (probable)(13m): Amelia(13ott); Grandoni(10/1/-/-), Vargas(13/-/-/-), Galante(11/-/-/1); Cesar Prates(5/2/4/-), Morrone(10/1/-/3), Passoni(5/-/3/-), De Ascentis(7/1/2/-), Coco;(9/1/1/-) Lazetic(-/6/5/-); Lucarelli(12/-/-/6)