Chievo - Ancona
The Flying Donkeys are struggling to get off the ground this season but will be hopeful of picking up all three points against bottom club Ancona.
Chievo are without a win since November 9, notching up a draw and three defeats. Dogged defending and good fortune enabled them to hang on at Reggina last week, but they will have to improve their goalscoring record if they are to aim for a UEFA Cup spot this season. Mario Alberto Santana’s influence in midfield has been sorely missed and he will be back in the starting eleven after recovering from a thigh problem.
Ancona impressed many punters with their performance against Lazio last Sunday, but still emerged beaten 1-0 thanks to the prowess of goalkeeper Matteo Sereni and match-winner Fabio Liverani.
Still without a Serie A win this season, the newly promoted side has at least been boosted by the arrival of Croatian hitman Milan Rapajc. The ex-Perugia striker was very dangerous from set-pieces and combined well with teenager Goran Pandev. Andrea Sussi takes over the midfield berth left bare by a one-match ban for Davide Carrus.
Chievo (probable): Marchegiani; Moro, Barzagli, D’Anna, Lanna; Semioli, Perrotta, Morrone, Santana; Cossato, Amauri
Ancona (probable) : Scarpi; Esposito, Viali, Lombardi; Daino, Andersson, Sussi, Baccin; Sommese; Rapajc, Pandev
Empoli - Roma
Roma stuttered towards a 1-0 win over Modena at the Olimpico and will be eager to prove they are still the exhilarating side admired in the early weeks of the campaign.
The Giallorossi were disappointing and were only able to break through the Canarini with a Francesco Totti penalty. Goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli was also forced into some tough saves and will be hoping for an easier game at the Stadio Castellani. The defence will be without the suspended Jonathan Zebina, so Christian Panucci starts in the four-man back line.
Empoli remain lodged in the relegation zone and have just one win to their names so far this season. The lack of a real centre-forward has seen the various strikers chop and change their position, often during a game, and this lack of stability seems to be affecting their goalscoring record with just seven in thirteen matches.
The Tuscans also have one of the weakest defences in the division, having conceded a whopping 26 goals, so Roma’s trident attack of Totti, Antonio Cassano and John Carew should theoretically have a field day. However, the same was said when they came face to face with Modena last Sunday and it proved to be a far tougher prospect.
Empoli (probable): Bucci; Belleri, Cribari, Pratali, Agostini; Busce’, Grella, Ficini; Rocchi, Gasparetto, Di Natale
Roma (probable) : Pelizzoli; Panucci, Samuel, Chivu; Mancini, Tommasi, Emerson, Lima; Totti; Carew, Cassano
Lazio - Inter
There are always fireworks in this encounter and this year it reads as a test for both team and Coach. Alberto Zaccheroni has revolutionised Inter’s fortunes in Serie A and put them right back in the Scudetto chase, pushing Lazio out of the top four places.
He comes face to face with his former club and the man who may yet replace him, as Roberto Mancini has long been held in high esteem by Nerazzurri patron Massimo Moratti. Reports continue to maintain that Zac is only warming the bench for Mancini’s arrival in the summer, but Dejan Stankovic could well make that trip up north early. The Serbian midfielder may even have played his last game for the Roman club, as he is suspended for this match and is likely to be sold in January.
There have been some very memorable games here, not least the now infamous May 5 2002. Hector Cuper was 90 minutes away from earning Inter’s first Scudetto in a decade, only to see his men crumble 4-2 at the Olimpico. Curiously, Zaccheroni was on the Biancocelesti bench to create one of the worst days in Inter’s history.
Last season there were also six goals, but divided up in a spectacular 3-3 draw that included two stunning Emre Belozoglu strikes. If Inter really have put their fear of the big clubs behind them – as shown by the 3-1 drubbing of Juventus – then this will be a very attacking game from both sides.
Mancini has a host of problems leading up to this showdown, as he is without Stankovic and the injured Cesar, Claudio Lopez, Giuliano Giannichedda, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Angelo Peruzzi and Simone Inzaghi.
The striker is the latest addition to this list, as he fractured his hand and will be out for up to two months. This leaves Lazio with only two strikers at their disposal, Roberto Muzzi and ex-Inter man Bernardo Corradi. His time at the San Siro was brief and he will be eager to prove they were a little too hasty in letting him go.
Inter have notched up a stunning six consecutive Serie A wins, but like Lazio could not prevent an early exit from the Champions’ League. The 2-0 victory at Bologna last week showed that the team can be just as effective without Christian Vieri, who started from the bench in favour of Julio Cruz, Alvaro Recoba and Obafemi Martins. However, the former Lazio star will be expected to start after that rest period.
There are also injury problems in the Nerazzurri camp, as Daniele Adani underwent surgery for a fractured nose after an accidental collision in Bologna. With Marco Materazzi, Thomas Helveg, Cristiano Zanetti and Francesco Coco already out of action, Adani will try to take the field with the aid of a protective mask. If the medical staff do not clear him in time, then Paraguayan international Carlos Gamarra will take over in central defence.
Lazio (probable): Sereni; Stam, Negro, Couto, Favalli; Albertini, Dabo, Liverani; Fiore, Corradi, Muzzi
Inter (probable) : Toldo; Cordoba, Gamarra, Cannavaro; J Zanetti, Almeyda, Lamouchi, Kily Gonzalez; Cruz, Vieri, Van der Meyde
Lecce - Juventus
Juventus have scored eleven goals in their last two games and expect to continue their run against the worst defence in Serie A, but all eyes will be on Homecoming King Fabrizio Miccoli.
The Bianconeri are not a side to do things by halves, so the best way to recover from losing three games on the trot was to destroy Olympiakos 7-0 and Parma 4-0 in their next outings. Fabrizio Miccoli has proved he is on fine form by netting a brace in that win over the Gialloblu and should be again given a starring role in his hometown of Lecce.
Alessandro Del Piero is now forced to fight for a place after struggling to fully recover from his injury, but a goal just one minute after stepping on to the field as a substitute means the pressure is on Miccoli to deliver again. David Trezeguet and Lilian Thuram remain sidelined with ankle injuries, so Marco Di Vaio is set to retain his spot.
Lecce were promoted from Serie B in the summer and have struggled to adapt to the top flight. Their home record was crucial in that campaign, but so far they have picked up just two wins, a draw and three defeats at the Stadio Via del Mare.
Delio Rossi’s men have a classy target man in Javier Chevanton, but it is at the back that they are truly disappointing. With 27 goals conceded, the Salentini have the worst defence in the division along with fellow relegation strugglers Perugia.
Lecce (probable): Amelia; Siviglia, Bovo, Stovini, Abruzzese; Cassetti, Ledesma, Piangerelli, Tonetto; Bojinov, Chevanton
Juventus (probable) : Buffon; Iuliano, Ferrara, Montero; Birindelli, Maresca, Tacchinardi, Zambrotta; Nedved; Di Vaio, Miccoli
Milan - Udinese
Milan return to Serie A and must immediately pick themselves up after losing out to Boca Juniors for the Intercontinental Cup.
That defeat on penalties has hit morale in more ways than one, as Alessandro Nesta’s knee injury was found to be more serious than initially thought. Exploratory surgery on the meniscus ligament has been performed and the defender will be out of action for a month.
Despite having a game in hand, as last week’s Serie A clash with Siena was postponed until Jan 28 due to that Intercontinental Cup tie, the Rossoneri are still firmly in second position and can catch up to leaders Roma.
Their form at the San Siro has been exceptional so far this season with four wins and a single draw, 1-1 against Juventus, in which just two goals were conceded. The defence has been their saving grace and Nesta’s absence will push veteran Alessandro ‘Billy’ Costacurta into the centre as a partner for Paolo Maldini. Pippo Inzaghi should now be ready to start alongside leading Capocannoniere Andriy Shevchenko following a series of thigh problems.
Udinese have no intention of coming here to be sacrificial lambs, as they have notched up three consecutive victories. The fact that arguably their most talented player, midfield maestro David Pizarro, has been frozen out of the squad has not affected the team performance. Vincenzo Iaquinta is struggling with fitness problems, so Carsten Jancker will retain his spot alongside Martin Jorgensen and top scorer contender Dino Fava.
Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Costacurta, Maldini, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Udinese (probable) : De Sanctis; Bertotto, Sensini, Kroldrup; Jankulovski, Pinzi, Muntari, Manfredini; Jorgensen, Jancker, Fava
Parma - Reggina
Both these teams need a pick-me-up after last week’s disappointing results as Parma try to clamber back into the top five.
The Gialloblu were hammered 4-0 in Turin and rarely troubled the Juventus defence, a fact that did not impress Coach Cesare Prandelli. To make matters worse, Daniele Bonera limped off with a fractured bone in his foot and will be out of action for two months, joining Adriano on the sidelines until the New Year. This pushes Paolo Cannavaro, an Under-21 international and younger brother of Azzurri captain Fabio, into the starting eleven.
Reggina have picked up just two points from their last four games, in which they were unable to score a single goal. Emiliano Bonazzoli has not lived up to the reputation built up last season, but this will be a special occasion for him as the hitman is still partly owned by Parma.
Winger Gianluca Falsini is also coming face to face with his former club. The absence of injured Japanese international Shunsuke Nakamura has robbed Reggina of their creativity, but new Coach Giancarlo Camolese is still trying to get to grips with his squad.
Parma (probable): Frey; Seric, Castellini, Ferrari, Junior; Barone, Donadel; Marchionni, Morfeo, Bresciano; Gilardino
Reggina (probable) : Belardi; Jiranek, Torrisi, Franceschini; Mesto, Baiocco, Mozart, Falsini; Cozza; Di Michele, Bonazzoli
Perugia - Brescia
Perugia are still without a single win, but last week’s spectacular 3-3 draw with Sampdoria promises quite a game.
The Grifoni have now drawn all seven of their home games in Serie A this season in which twelve goals were scored and conceded. Concentration seems to be a real problem, as shown by the fact they were leading Samp 3-1 last Sunday before being pegged back by a last-minute strike.
Changes are forced in midfield, as Massimiliano Fusani is suspended, so Under-21 international Fabio Gatti steps in from the start. Zisis Vryzas has now completed his two-match ban and returns to partner Massimo Margiotta upfront, so Jay Bothroyd is again relegated to the bench.
Brescia grabbed their first home win of the season last week and, like Perugia, have a tendency to give their fans plenty of goalmouth action. Despite scoring 19 goals in 13 games, the Rondinelle managed to concede 24 during the same period. Roberto Baggio is still a major doubt to feature due to a recurring back problem, so Pippo Maniero and ex-Perugia man Andrea Caracciolo are again set to start.
Perugia (probable): Tardioli; Diamoutene, Di Loreto, Ignoffo; Ze Maria, Tedesco, Obodo, Gatti, Grosso; Vryzas, Margiotta
Brescia (probable) : Agliardi; Martinez, Di Biagio, Dainelli, Pisano; Filippini, Brighi, Matuzalem, Mauri; Maniero, Caracciolo
Sampdoria - Modena
Sampdoria are unbeaten in six games and expect to extend that run when they welcome Modena to Marassi.
The Blucerchiati brought in many big names over the summer following their promotion from Serie B, but their true star is emerging as Francesco Flachi. He proved a wonderful partner for Fabio Bazzani last season and despite initially being left on the bench in favour of new arrival Massimo Marazzina, he has now burst through to become a crucial Serie A player.
His two stunning goals earned a 3-3 draw at Perugia on Saturday and he is certainly one to watch. Samp are forced into some midfield changes, as dynamo Sergio Volpi is suspended, so former Milan man Massimo Donati steps in.
Modena impressed during their slender 1-0 defeat at leaders Roma last week and hope to build on that performance. Nicola Amoruso was unlucky not to get a goal at the Olimpico and should be partnered by the pacey Diomansy Kamara. Their away form is a worry with just one win, two draws and four defeats.
Sampdoria (probable): Antonioli; Zenoni, Conte, Falcone, Bettarini; Diana, Donati, Palombo, Doni; Flachi, Bazzani
Modena (probable) : Ballotta; Pivotto, Cevoli, Ungari; Campedelli, Marasco, Milanetto, Balestri; Kamara, Allegretti; Amoruso
Siena - Bologna
Siena return to Serie A action following a week of rest, but Bologna wish they could take a breather after picking up just five points from their last seven games.
The Tuscans could not take part in the League last Sunday, as their planned opponents Milan were in Japan for the Intercontinental Cup, so that tie has been put back until January 28. Giuseppe Papadopulo’s men have been among the most impressive newly promoted teams and thrashed Lazio 3-0 in their last home outing.
Their form at the Stadio Artemio Franchi has been good with just four goals conceded and ten scored, while Enrico Chiesa should now be fit enough to return following a thigh strain. Nonetheless, former Bologna striker Nicola Ventola is expected to start the match.
Bologna are struggling to emerge from the relegation zone and the 2-0 home defeat to Inter last Sunday highlighted their defensive frailties. Twice the offside trap failed, and they will need to be much more alert against the pacey style of Siena.
Sam Dalla Bona is suspended, while Tomas Locatelli and Marco Zanchi remain sidelined with long-term injuries, so Fabio Pecchia and Christian Amoroso are expected to step in. The Rossoblu’s away form does not bode well with two draws and four defeats to their name.
Siena (probable): Rossi; Cirillo, Delli Carri, Mignani, Cufre; Taddei, Cucciari, D’Aversa, Guigou; Flo, Ventola
Bologna (probable) : Pagliuca; Zaccardo, Natali, Juarez; Nervo, Amoroso, Colucci, Moretti; Pecchia, Signori; Rossini