With harsh winter weather pounding Northern Italy this week many of the midweek matches were postponed and we could see some more pushed back this weekend as well.
But neither snow nor sleet nor the fact that my report cards are due tomorrow will keep this intrepid blogger from providing a Serie A preview to all three of you who read it regularly.
There have been goals raining down all over the peninsula as well, with just one 0-0 draw (Napoli and lowly Cesena) in the last two match days and scintillating affairs between Palermo and Inter (4-4), Cagliari and Roma (4-2), and Genoa and Napoli (3-2, again the Azzurri on the wrong side of a result).
The EPL is back to compete again this week, but Serie A offers up some very juicy matchups as the race for the scudetto remains wide open.
Saturday, February 4
Cesena v. Catania – Any match with Mutu has the potential to be exciting right?
I wouldn’t bank on it with this one. Cesena held Napoli bravely away from home midweek, but they just cannot score.
The visiting Elefanti haven’t been exactly prolific in front of goal, but with better options in Lodi and Bergessio, I must believe they have the advantage here.
Nil-nil is the best I think Cesena can hope for, but I’ll tip Catania to score the one they need. 0-1 to the away side.
AS Roma v. Internazionale – Count me among the Roma faithful this weekend.
De Rossi’s absence was notable in their bad defeat against Cagliari midweek, and if Inter can boss the midfield it will be tough once again for Roma’s young playmakers to shine.
And what can you say about Diego Milito? He suffered a miserable campaign last year but has hit his stride in style for the Nerazzurri once more and will certainly put a permeable Giallorossi defense to the test.
Roma have goalscorers too though. Totti can still hit them, Pjanic has been a revelation, and young Italian Fabio Borini has really come on strong recently.
This should be a good one folks, and you know I just can’t keep picking Inter. 3-2 to the Romans!
Sunday, February 5
Genoa v. Lazio – Genoa have one of the worst defenses in Italy but they keep finding ways to get big results. Rodrigo Palacio remains their real danger-man.
And Lazio simply refuse to bow out of the title race, defeating a wasteful Milan side at the Stadio Olimpico midweek.
Last year’s standout Hernanes is getting back into fine form and with Cisse off to QPR club captain and legend Tommaso Rocchi joins Klose up front.
Genoa have been far better at home, but Lazio have travelled well all year.
I’ll call it 2-2 in a hard-nosed, sneakily entertaining fixture.
Chievo Verona v. Parma – The Flying Donkeys are very effective at home while visiting Parma have won just once away from home.
The Crusati said goodbye to one of the all-time greats this week as Hernan Crespo leaves the club, possibly for America!
They’ll also say goodbye to all three points in Verona on Sunday. 2-0 for the home side.
Fiorentina v. Udinese – Upset alert!
La Viola have a defense that can match Udinese’s and the Zebrette have been a very different squad on the road.
Floro Flores should pair with Di Natale up front, but Jovetic and Amauri are a strong, aerial presence that the visitors will need to deal with.
I see a low-scoring, tense match here with a goal coming late. I believe it will come from a man in a purple shirt.
Juventus v. Siena – Milan won the championship with defense last year and Juve have been following the same formula. A league leading 13 goals against means even when the Bianconeri aren’t at their best, they get the points they need to stay top.
No one has capitalized on all their draws, which makes the weeks they win all the more deflating.
This is one of those weeks, as manager Conte welcomes the club he helped reach Serie A this term to that swanky new stadium and promptly dispatches them.
Bologna v. Lecce – I have a soft spot for Lecce and I may be naive but I’m starting to think the Apulians could survive this year.
They followed up their shock victory over Inter with a game, albeit losing effort at Udinese midweek.
Their defense is soft but they haven’t given up any big tallies in recent weeks and if they can find some goals against other sides in the bottom half they just might make it.
Keep an eye on influential young Colombian Luis Muriel on loan from Udinese. With 2 goals and 3 assists in his 11 starts, he may be the unknown quantity that Bologna just don’t have.
I’ll take the visitors, 1-2.
Novara v. Cagliari – Cagliari’s 4 goals versus Roma midweek represent 20% of all their scoring for the entire season.
And Novara were always going to have a hard time producing anything at this level.
This could be a dour one folks, only for the Serie A die-hards.
0-0 at the final whistle.
Palermo v. Atalanta – If it’s goals you want I think you’ll find them in Sicily this weekend.
Palermo are as likely to score 4 as they are to give up 4, evidenced by the 8 goal thriller of a draw that played out in Milan against Inter on Wednesday.
Captain Fabrizio Miccoli has really put the Rosanero on his shoulders and his hat-trick in that game earlier this week was a thing of beauty.
German Denis, Atalanta’s top scorer by a wide margin, is out with suspension so someone else must step up if La Dea expect to take points.
3-1 to the men in pink.
AC Milan v. Napoli – Two sides desperately searching for last year’s form will clash at the San Siro to round out the matchday.
Milan may have the most goals in Serie A but still they have yet to find that killer instinct that pushed them to the title last campaign. Most worrying is that this lack of bite in the final third comes predominantly against top sides. The Rossoneri have failed to beat another top 5 team all season.
Their title defense is still very much on, but they’ll need to pick up some important results along the way.
And then there’s Napoli. They didn’t lose any key pieces. They’ve been relatively healthy.
So how to explain the drop off? You could blame the Champions League, but they haven’t been bothered by that for weeks now and still they drop points to inferior competition.
Captain Paolo Cannavaro is the only notable absence, and while I have never rated Fabio’s little brother as highly as others might, the lack of his leadership could explain some of the listlessness and disorganization evident in this side.
All that being said, if these two squads can find the spark they need at the same time on Sunday, we will be in for one hell of a show.
3-2 Milan! Il Diavolo must keep pace with that damn Old Lady.