Ascoli - Reggina
Marco Giampaolo’s Ascoli are badly in need of points and will see Sunday’s Stadio Del Duca clash with Reggina as a great chance to secure their first win in seven games. However, the visitors will also be confident after last weekend’s 2-1 win over Parma, which moved the Reggio Calabria side away from the relegation battle and into 13th.
Although Reggina are in a comfortable mid-table position, they have travelled poorly and are yet to win away from home. In fact they have only scored a pitiful three goals on the road all season. Coach Walter Mazzarri will see Francesco Cozza, who was on target for the fifth time this campaign with a goal straight from a corner against Parma, as the best chance to change that record.
After an encouraging start to life in Serie A, Ascoli have recently started to look a little out of their depth. Swiss-born Coach Giampaolo has however built a side that is resilient and willing to fight. These qualities earned the Bianconeri draws against Chievo and Palermo and ensured that Inter were made to work hard for their 1-0 victory last weekend.
Ascoli will also benefit from the Del Duca effect - while they have lost one home fixture that was played in Rimini by way of punishment for crowd disturbances and they are unbeaten at their own stadium.
While Mazzarri has a full squad at his disposal, Giampaolo is still plagued by injury. Michele Fini returns for the Bianconeri but Ivano Della Morte rejoins Mirko Cudini, Valerio Virga, Domenico Cristiano, Daniele Adani and Corrado Colombo on the sidelines.
Ascoli (probable): Coppola; Comotto, Domizzi, Paci, Del Grosso; Foggia, Guana, Parola, Fini; Quagliarella, Bjelanovic
Zotti, Tosto, Corallo, Carbone, Zanini, Biso, Ferrante
Reggina (probable): Pavarini; Lanzaro, De Rosa, Franceschini; A Lucarelli, Mesto, Paredes, Biondini, Modesto; Cozza, Amoruso
Saviano, Lauro, Rigoni , Carobbio, Vigiani , Ceravolo, Missiroli
Fiorentina - Treviso
Fiorentina will be keen to forget last weekend’s unlucky defeat against Juventus by taking maximum points from this Stadio Artemio Franchi clash with minnows Treviso. Under Alberto Cavasin, Treviso have shown signs of improvement but have a mammoth task if they are to return home with anything this weekend.
Treviso have been Serie A’s underdogs from the beginning and unsurprisingly the hastily constructed squad has struggled. While next week’s clash with Lecce is already a must-win, Cavasin – a former Viola boss – will expect nothing from his side here.
However, the Biancocelesti will have taken heart from three draws in the last four games and will look to make life uncomfortable for the hosts. Certainly travelling won’t be an issue for Treviso, their only win of the season so far came away to Reggina in Week 9.
Cesare Prandelli’s men are unlikely to lack belief. Despite a cruel defeat against the leaders, confidence will remain high for a side enjoying unexpected success. With 16 goals, Luca Toni, who spent a season at Treviso, has alone scored twice the number of goals that the visitors have this season. There is very little to suggest that Treviso will be able to stop him increasing his tally. Azzurrini front man Giampaolo Pazzini will compete with alleged Inter target Valeri Bojinov for the chance to partner the Capocannoniere if Prandelli decides against a lone striker.
The visitors’ only new injury worry is Andrea Dossena who looks set to miss out. Prandelli will have to do without Martin Jorgensen who has a knee injury and Michele Pazienza faces a late fitness test.
Fiorentina (probable): Frey; Ujfalusi, Dainelli, Di Loreto, Pasqual; Brocchi, Donadel, Pazienza, Fiore; Pazzini, Toni
Vaihdot: Cejas, Dainelli, Pancaro, Montolivo, Maggio ,Bojinov, Guigou
Treviso (probable): Zancopè; Dellafiore, Viali, Cottafava, Giuliatto, Galeoto; E Filippini, Parravicini, Gallo, A Filippini; Reginaldo
Handanovic ,Dellafiore, De Martino, Chiappara, Pinga, Lorenzi ,Reginaldo
Inter - Milan
Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini will both approach Sunday’s clash at the San Siro with a degree of trepidation. Mancini has spent a large part of the season under pressure and following the Rossoneri’s shock defeat at the hands of Chievo last weekend, Ancelotti is also under intense scrutiny.
Although both sides’ title chances already look remote, the battle for second place could not be more important. There will also be the personal battle between Brazil’s two top goalkeepers in the form of Julio Cesar for Inter and Dida for Milan. Last season’s two derby days only produced one goal – the first finished goalless, Milan won the other 1-0 – and with so much at stake and such quality in goal, a tight encounter is likely.
Pre-season expectation was intense amongst the Inter faithful but the Nerazzurri struggled to find consistency early in the season. However, Mancini’s men had won their last four matches against Parma, Artmedia Bratislava, Messina and Ascoli – before the draw with Rangers – and are starting to play with confidence.
The defensive frailty shown against Roma, Palermo and Sampdoria has eased and with it has the pressure on Mancini. Adriano scored the winner against Ascoli and was on target against Rangers. He has the ability to menace Milan’s ageing defence, but the Inter boss can only hope that he is in the right frame of mind.
Ancelotti was left to rue an uncharacteristically error-ridden performance last weekend but called for his side to show their usual aggression against their city rivals. The Milan boss also promised that the Rossoneri would overcome their two big challenges this week. After a tense 3-2 win over Schalke ensured Champions League progress, he can only hope that his squad have enough in the tank to ensure a successful seven days.
Paolo Maldini is a major doubt for Milan but Clarence Seedorf is set to return. Christian Vieri is unlikely to feature against his former side. Mancini will be without Alvaro Recoba who sustained an injury against Ascoli and possibly Marco Materazzi who limped off against Rangers.
Inter (probable): Julio Cesar; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Materazzi, Favalli; Figo, Veron, Cambiasso, Stankovic; Martins, Adriano
Toldo, Burdisso, Recoba, Mihajlovic, Pizarro, Martins, Cruz
Milan (probable): Dida; Simic, Stam, Nesta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka; Gilardino, Shevchenko
Kalac ,Jankulovski, Costacurta, Kaladze ,Rui Costa, Vieri, Inzaghi
Juventus - Cagliari
Juventus have an air of invincibility at the moment and it will require a near-miracle for Cagliari to change that when they meet at the Stadio Delle Alpi on Sunday. While the Sardinians will expect defeat, they have had a positive couple of weeks and will look to force Fabio Capello’s men to work hard for the three points.
Victory over Fiorentina last weekend, coupled with Milan’s defeat at Chievo, opened up an eight point gap at the top of the table, but Capello is determined to avoid any complacency and will accept nothing less than a fifth straight victory. The Juventus boss will also be determined to detract from Press speculation that he may be set for a move to Madrid.
Nedo Sonetti will be highly encouraged by his Cagliari side’s recent performances. After a disastrous start to the season which saw the demise of three Coaches, the Sardinians are finally playing with some confidence and resolve.
A 2-0 win over Sampdoria in Week 13 owed a lot to Honduran striker David Suazo who netted his sixth and seventh goals of the campaign and is showing his true potential. Last week’s 2-2 draw with Palermo was an apt demonstration of Sonetti’s positive impact. Having trailed 2-0 at the break, they fought back to get a 2-2 draw.
The Cagliari Coach will go in search of an improbable first away win of the season with a full squad. Capello is likely to start Gigi Buffon but is missing Emerson, Fabio Cannavaro and Mauro Camoranesi. Brazilian defender Gladstone and Federico Balzaretti are likely to benefit from the depleted squad and start on the bench.
Juventus (probable): Buffon; Zambrotta, Thuram, Kovac, Chiellini; Blasi, Giannichedda, Vieira, Nedved; Trezeguet, Ibrahimovic´
Abbiati, Pessotto, Balzaretti, Gladstone , Mutu, Del Piero, Zalayeta
Cagliari (probable): Campagnolo; Lopez, Vignati, Bizera, Agostini; Esposito, Conti, Budel, Conticchio; Suazo, Langella
Tomasig, Cocco, Pani, Pisano, Gobbi, Cossu, Capone
Livorno - Lazio
Livorno will hope to continue their superb start to the season with a win in this Stadio Armando Picchi encounter, but they will have to deal with a Lazio side that is starting to hit form.
Roberto Donadoni is again working miracles at Livorno. While many critics believed that last year’s comfortable survival in the top flight was a fluke, the Amaranto have proved them wrong and sit in fifth place. In fact, the start to the campaign has been so encouraging that the Livorno boss has called for his side to be "more than mid-table" this term.
Remarkably, Donadoni’s side have only conceded one goal at home this season and it came on the opening day against Lecce. Although the Tuscans have not been as prolific as they have been mean in defence, last season’s Capocannoniere, Cristiano Lucarelli, has already scored seven times and was on target in last weekend’s impressive 2-0 win away to Udinese.
Lazio are also showing confidence. Delio Rossi’s men have recorded back-to-back 3-2 victories and, despite pre-season fears of a relegation battle, have climbed into eighth place.
The capital club have been poor away from the Stadio Olimpico and have only won once on their travels, but will believe that they can add to their win over Empoli at the Stadio Carlo Castellani a fortnight ago. The Biancocelesti may even appreciate playing away from home given the fans’ protests against club President Claudio Lotito which involved staying outside the stadium for the first 15 minutes of the Siena match.
Both Coaches will have the luxury of strong sides. Delio Rossi has no new injury problems and Donadoni is only lacking Chilean Jorge Vargas.
Livorno (probable): Amelia; Melara, Grandoni, Galante; Lazetic, Morrone, Passoni, De Ascentis, Coco; Bakayoko, C Lucarelli
Acerbis, Fanucci, Cesar, Prates, Centi, De Ascentis, Paulinho ,Bakayoko
Lazio (probable): Peruzzi; Belleri, Siviglia, Cribari, Zauri; Behrami, Dabo, Liverani; Pandev, Di Canio, Tare
Ballotta ,Stendardo, Cesar, Baronio, Manfredini, Rocchi , Inzaghi
Messina - Chievo
Chievo will travel to the Stadio San Filippo hoping to add to Messina’s misery. This campaign has been far removed from last year’s fairy tail for the Giallorossi. Currently struggling at the bottom end of the table they are only clear of the relegation zone due to their superior goal difference. To make matters worse, the Messina tifosi are yet to see a home win all season. Add to this the fact that the Sicilian side have scored just once in their last four outings and they could find it difficult to break down the Veronese outfit’s tough defence.
The Flying Donkeys are sending shock waves through Serie A once again with their high League position and will be very much on a high after last week’s victory over the mighty Milan. The Gialloblu are going from strength to strength this year and only Juventus have lost less than them with Chievo’s record currently standing at just two defeats. They are now unbeaten in their last 10 matches, but they will have to defend that run without the injured Alberto Fontana, Matteo Brighi, Carvalho Amauri and Federico Cossato along with Marco Malago who is suspended.
If Messina are to score against such a tight back four then they will need an improvement from last season’s hero Riccardo Zampagna. The talismanic centre forward scored 12 vital goals in the previous campaign, but this term has seen him blighted by injury and suspension. He has so far only managed eight appearances and more importantly he has scored just once all season. Fortunately he will be available for Messina in this match but Alessandro Parisi, Atsushi Yanagisawa, Zlatan Muslimovic and Pereira Rafael are all still injured. Also Salvatore Aronica joins Gaetano D’Agostino on the suspension list following his red card against Treviso.
Messina (probable): Storari; Zoro, Rezaei, Zanchi, Cristante; Giampa, Coppola, Donati, Sculli; Di Napoli, Zampagna
Caglioni , Fusco, Mamede, Muslimovic , Sullo, Tummiolo, Iliev
Chievo (probable): Squizzi; D’Anna, Mandelli, Lanna, Moro; Semioli, Sammarco, Giunti, Franceschini; Tiribocchi, Pellissier
Alfonso, Mantovani, Scurto, Zanchetta, Luciano, Antonelli, Obinna
Parma - Sampdoria
When Parma and Sampdoria meet at the Stadio Tardini it will see two of Serie A’s former big clubs trying to return to their past glories. Sampdoria were one of Italy’s top outfits in the early 90s, while more recently Parma were a member of the elite ‘Seven Sisters’ of calcio. Both have seen a change of fortunes since then but are desperate to once again climb to the top tier of Italian football.
Parma now find themselves in freefall though, with last week’s loss to Reggina seeing them drop into the relegation zone. Just one point off bottom, few can be feeling as much pressure as Gialloblu Coach Mario Beretta. With rumours rife that new owner Lorenzo Sanz is set to appoint popular Czech tactician Zdenek Zeman in his place, suffering a fourth defeat in a row could seal his fate. Beretta’s cause will not be helped by Domenico Morfeo’s suspension after he saw red in Reggio Calabria or the continued absence of key players like Daniele Bonera, Mark Bresciano, Marco Delvecchio, and Fernando Couto through injury.
Sampdoria are currently in prime position to return to their glory days. Six points behind their Champions League ambition and just one off UEFA Cup qualification they are moving in the right direction, even if they have been hampered by inconsistency. The safe bet for this match would be a 2-0 win for one of the two sides as amazingly five of the Blucerchiati’s last six games have finished with that scoreline. Unfortunately the injured trio of Angelo Palombo, Simone Pavan and long-term absentee Fabio Bazzani will all be unable to help ensure that result goes their way.
Parma (probable): Bucci; Coly, Cardone, Cannavaro, Contini; Marchionni, Simplicio, Grella, Cigarini; Dedic; Corradi
Lupatelli, Rossi, Savi, Couto, Bolano, Dedic , Paponi
Sampdoria (probable): Antonioli; Zenoni, Falcone, Sala, Pisano; Diana, Volpi, Dalla Bona, Tonetto; Zauli, Bonazzoli
Castellazzi, Castellini, Pavan, Gasbarroni, Borriello, Zauli, Kutuzov
Roma - Palermo
When Roma host Palermo at the Stadio Olimpico they will each be hoping to avoid their mistakes from Week 14. They both took 2-0 leads only to see them wiped out by clubs struggling against relegation. For two sides supposedly aiming for European qualification, slip-ups of that nature against the likes of Lecce and Cagliari will not be tolerated for long
Fittingly this mid-table clash could well be decided in the midfield. The Rosanero’s central pairing of veteran captain Eugenio Corini and Simone Barone have given their side the drive they need to succeed by controlling the pace of the game. For the capital outfit their defensive midfield duo gives the likes of Francesco Totti and Rodrigo Taddei the free licence to attack at will.
The good news for Palermo, bossed by Gigi Del Neri who spent an unhappy few months at Roma last term, is that their opponents will be without Daniele De Rossi. The Roman side will not be too concerned though due to the return to fitness of the influential Damiano Tommasi to partner Simone Perrotta. That could be crucial as the outcome of this battle between two of Serie A’s best midfield partnerships will go a long way to deciding the overall result.
Another interesting battle in this match will be between Christian Panucci and his opposite number Cristian Zaccardo. With the World Cup approaching both are currently vying for Marcello Lippi’s troublesome right-back spot. Zaccardo currently looks to be in pole position due to the Azzurri boss’ apparent ‘personality clash’ with the former Milan and Real Madrid defender, but Zac will be eager to take this opportunity to show that he is earning his ticket to Germany on merit alone.
He will have to do this without the help of fellow Rosanero defender Christian Terlizzi, but this pales in comparison to Roma’s injury problems. Amantino Mancini and Vincenzo Montella join De Rossi in the treatment room while a rejuvenated Antonio Cassano, Cristian Chivu and Olivier Dacourt will have to wait to see if they pass late fitness tests to know what part they can play in this match.
Roma (probable): Doni; Panucci, Kuffour, Chivu, Cufre; Perrotta, Tommasi; Aquilani, Totti, Taddei; Nonda
Curci , Mexes, Bovo, Kharja, Dacourt, Alvarez, Okaka
Palermo (probable): Guardalben; Zaccardo, Rinaudo, Barzagli, Grosso; Gonzalez, Barone, Corini, Santana; Caracciolo, Makinwa
Andujar, Conteh, Biava, Codrea, Gonzalez, Brienza, Palmiteri
Siena - Empoli
Siena and Empoli will both be hoping to put an end to their recent drop in form when they meet in this Tuscan derby. Both have lost valuable League places in recent weeks and Siena in particular are in danger of being sucked into the relegation battle. They have managed just one point out of a possible 12, while the Azzurri have tasted defeat in all of their last three matches. They will each be desperate to give their fans something to cheer about again.
The Bianconeri will be quick to point out that their slip has coincided with injuries to a number of key players including Tomas Locatelli, Igor Tudor and Nicola Legrottaglie. But these players have now returned and they will need to start picking up points quickly if they are to make up for lost ground. Gianluca Falsini and Roberto D’Aversa may still be missing but the tifosi will take no excuses for a defeat to their local rivals.
This match will also see veteran goal scorer Enrico Chiesa come face to face with new contender Francesco Tavano. The Empoli forward is currently in third place in the Capocannoniere race, one goal ahead of Chiesa. It is the elder statesman of Tuscan strikers that will be the more desperate of the two to score in this encounter as he has by his own high standards hit a rare dry spell in front of goal.
While not scoring in four games may not seem like a disaster, when compared to his previous strike-rate of six in six you can see why some fans are becoming concerned. It is also no coincidence that Siena have failed to win any of those four games. His chances of scoring could be helped though as Empoli ‘keeper Gianluca Berti will have to pass a medical at the weekend before he is declared fit to play.
Siena (probable): Mirante; Negro, Tudor, Legrottaglie; Alberto, Paro, Vergassola, Gastaldello; Locatelli; Chiesa, Bogdani
Fortin, Gastaldello, Colonnese, Foglio, Paro, Bachini, Marazzina
Empoli (probable): Berti; Lucchini, Coda, Pratali, Bonetto; Busce, Ficini, Almiron; Vannucchi, Tavano; Rigano
Balli, Lucchini, Almiron, Serafini, Gasparetto , Raggi, Pozzi
Udinese - Lecce
Lecce’s long journey north to face Udinese will see two of this term’s biggest underachievers come face to face at the Stadio Friuli. Both have struggled with the tactical changes that have accompanied the arrival of new Coaches and are lagging behind their respective aims for the campaign.
If the Zebras are to repeat their Champions League qualification of last season they will have to learn to adapt quickly. Last week’s home defeat to Livorno means that they are already nine points adrift of that goal and none of the current top four looks like letting up anytime in the near future.
But it is the Giallorossi who have found the change the hardest and it shows in their League position. Currently propping up the table with just eight points, they cannot afford any more time to adapt. Despite being in last place though there has been a definite improvement in recent weeks.
While four points from a possible nine may not seem like a world shattering reversal of fortunes, when you consider that their only defeat in those three matches was against Milan at the San Siro then it becomes a different matter. Add a 3-0 thrashing of Siena and their fight-back from a two-goal deficit against Roma last week and Lecce could finally have turned the corner.
Udinese’s worsening injury problems will make the Southern side’s job a little easier. The absence of Cesare Natali, Giampiero Pinzi, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Valerio Bertotto, Vincent Candela and Fausto Rossini should give Coach Serse Cosmi quite a selection headache as well as a ready excuse if things don’t go his way. His opposite number has less to worry about, as Lecce’s only absentees are long-term injury victims Guillermo Giacomazzi and Rodney Babu. Alex Pinardi will also miss out due to suspension but the excellent recent form of potential replacement Jaime Valdes should soften the blow.
Udinese (probable): De Sanctis; Zapata, Sensini, Felipe; Motta, Vidigal, Obodo, Mauri, Pieri; Di Natale, Barreto
Paoletti, Juarez, Rinaldi, Zenoni, Muntari, Tissone, Di Michele
Lecce (probable): Sicignano; Cassetti, Diamoutene, Stovini, Rullo; Camorani, Ledesma, Marianini; Konan, Vucinic, Valdes
Benussi , Angelo, Cozzolino, Pellé, Giorgino, Polenghi, Marianini
(Channel4, Gazzetta, omat tilastot)