While England is still putzing around with cup football, this weekend is all about the league in Italy.
The Coppa Italia semifinals were set midweek and when the tournament recommences February 8 we will be treated to two legs between top Serie A clubs Juventus and Milan and an intriguing battle between always entertaining Napoli and a real dark horse in newly promoted Siena.
And I’d be careful about penciling the Partenopei into the final just yet, as Siena proved they could hang by securing a 1-1 league draw last weekend. Pandev proved a shrewd loan signing again with the late equalizer for Napoli.
But with that competition out of the way, the focus turns swiftly back to a race for the Scudetto.
Last week saw a number of high-scoring matches, with Roma and Palermo each netting five and the current top 4 all taking care of business.
Fewer matches jump off the fixture list this round, but all that means is there will be plenty more chances for a shock or two.
Sundays host most of the action in Serie A, but the marquee matchup this weekend comes on Saturday. And what are you going to watch after Manchester United take on Liverpool? Hull City v. Crawley Town?
Join me for some calcio, won’t you?
Saturday, January 28
Catania v. Parma – Catania are very tough in Sicily and Parma have been just dreadful away from home. I have a strong feeling the pattern will continue this weekend.
The Elefanti played Udinese tough in Udine last weekend, doomed by an early own goal and giving Handanovic plenty to think about.
Maxi Lopez is still in limbo waiting to see if Milan fail to land Tevez. He will play no part yet again, giving the visitors a glimmer of hope.
Giovinco remains the danger man for Parma but young Frenchman Jonathan Biabiany has come on strong in support of the diminutive striker.
Keep an eye on Lodi’s free kick prowess for the hosts, who should win a tight one 2-1.
Juventus v. Udinese – Do I really have to convince you to watch this one? Udinese are winning more and more fans as they prove their consistent rise has been no fluke and Juventus have made a strong signal of intent to reclaim the title they have won so many times.
Great goalkeepers? Check.
The two best defenses in Italy? Check.
Dynamic midfields? Check.
Legendary Italian strikers? Check. (Seriously, did you see Del Piero’s cup goal versus Roma?)
This game has it all, and it will be easy to catch on FSC. A must watch for all fans of the beautiful game.
My prediction? I’ve called against the Old Lady so many times I must be jinxing myself now, so I’ll back them to remain undefeated. I think the Zebrette will earn a share of the spoils though, 2-2.
Sunday, January 29
Fiorentina v. Siena – Both of these squads have actually done really well at the back, La Viola especially with the 3rd stingiest defense in Serie A.
So the real blame for their low position lies up front then right? Not so fast.
Each team has capable scorers, but neither Fiorentina’s Montolivo nor Siena’s D’Agostino has been as influential as tifosi of either squad would enjoy.
The strikers have been making their own luck, and since Siena has two options in Calaio and Destro to counter the hosts’ Jovetic, I’ll take them away from home.
Buoyed by their upcoming trip to a cup semi, the visitors squeak by 0-1.
AS Roma v. Bologna – Can Roma stop Di Vaio?
Roma can stop Di Vaio.
They haven’t taken the bug scalps they’ll need to get back into Europe yet, but they’ve handled most challenges from the bottom of the table.
3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Cesena v. Atalanta – German Denis and Atalanta aren’t surprising the big clubs anymore, so they need to capitalize on weaker opponents, home or away..
Cesena’s 42 year old goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli is the oldest player in Serie A but he flings himself about like a teenager. He’ll have to rely on all the guile he’s developed over the years for the Seahorses to get anything from this game.
I just don’t see it happening, 0-2 for La Dea.
Chievo Verona v. Lazio – Here’s one of those surprises I was promising. Chievo and Lazio both got bounced from Coppa Italia during the week but the loss will sting the Mussi Volanti the most, as a cup semifinal would be a massive boon for the perpetual middle of the table club.
Lazio may have the names but Pellissier and company have the grit to match. And if you’re keeping tabs on Americans abroad, be sure to take a look at our own Michael Bradley, who so far has slotted into the Italian game admirably.
2-1 for the home team. Get in WNF!
Genoa v. Napoli – Genoa are a respectable side, but their issues are in defense.
Bad news when Napoli are coming to town, and a full strength Azzurri side at that.
When faced with Hamsik, Lavezzi, Pandev, and Cavani, the hosts could be looking at another rout (6-1 in Naples earlier this year, which led to Alberto Malesani’s dismissal) at the hands of Mazzarri’s men.
There will be goals. 2-4 for Napoli.
Lecce v. Internazionale – Oh how I would love to call the upset on this one.
But Lecce are winless at home and Inter are on a serious upswing domestically.
I must credit Ranieri with restoring some belief to this squad and with the resurgence of Diego Milito Inter have their sights firmly set on Champions League qualification once more.
0-3 to the Nerazzurri.
Palermo v. Novara – Palermo showed they still have some firepower last weekend. 5 goals from 5 different players is an encouraging sign of life and handed Bortolo Mutti his first win as head of the Rosanero.
Fabrizio Miccoli played a vital role in 4 of the goals, netting one himself. There backline is still an issue though and Novara should be aggressive away from home.
They have nothing to lose and if they get bold and throw Rigoni, Mascara, and Caracciolo on the field Palermo will have their hands full.
I’ll go out on a limb and take the league’s bottom side with a surprise in Sicily. 2-3 Novara.
AC Milan v. Cagliari – Milan’s injured list could be a formidable side in its own right. And according to girlfriend Melissa Satta the reason Kevin-Prince Boateng is a regular in the infirmary this season is quite simple: too much sex.
Satta is the former WAG of longtime Inter striker Christian Vieri. Is this sexual sabotage? You never know in Italy.
Still, Allegri has more than enough players at his disposal to see off one of the league’s most impotent offenses.
Ibrahimovic is in fine form, and as much as I love Pato, the big Swede seems to really thrive with Robinho at his side.
Any win will do, but Milan still have some people to convince that they have what it takes to bring Serie A hardware home once more.
4-1 at the San Siro. Forza Rossoneri!
Happy weekend everyone.