What a week for the Rossoneri.
Still injury depleted and without a suspended Ibrahimovic, Allegri’s men willed their way to a victory away to Udinese on Saturday.
Goals from new signing Maxi Lopez and rising star Stephan El Shaarawy nullified the immortal Di Natale’s early opener and sent Milan back to the top of the Serie A table (a position they still hold due to yet another Juventus draw against Parma midweek).
Though the Bianconeri still have a game in hand, it was a big victory for Milan and with a straightforward trip to Cesena up this week I expect them to remain top until their Serie A rematch with the Old Lady in 2 weeks time.
And of course there was that glorious Champions League match at the San Siro.
Much will be made of Arsenal’s woeful defending, and rightly so. But Milan showed the killer instinct, the ability to run rampant that their manager strives for and their fans have been waiting to see all season.
The second half of February could prove to be a real turning point for Il Diavolo.
Oh, and there are 19 other clubs in Serie A. Join me for a quick peek into their worlds after the jump.
Friday, February 17
Fiorentina v. Napoli – Woohoo! Friday Football! And I think this will be a good one.
Look. Yes Napoli have been mediocre in Serie A. But we all know what they are capable of when at their best.
Walter Mazzarri must have them playing quality calcio in this one to tune up for their Champions League clash with Chelsea.
They are healthy. No excuses.
But La Viola is no pushover, especially at home. They upset Udinese 2 weeks back, and due to weather have been well rested and are without no integral pieces.
Fiorentina’s Cassani is having a great spell at fullback. And Gamberini is also awesome at the back cementing one of the best defenses in Italy this year.
I think it will be back and forth, but I will take Napoli, hoping it begins a good week for them. 1-3.
Internazionale v. Bologna – The fact that Novara did the double over Inter this season pleases me greatly.
I just can’t see Bologna pulling off a similar feat. Mostly because they can’t score.
No Milito means we probably see Forlan, or even be treated to a Zarate sighting.
Saturday, February 18
Juventus v. Catania – Needless to say I am pulling for the Sicilians to come up with a huge effort on Saturday, but Juventus are totally healthy, and are missing only Vidal to disqualification.
Conte is totally spoiled for choice up top with the group of Matri, Quagliarella, Borriello, De Piero, and Vucinic to choose from.
Catania have shown some steel at the back, and are coming off a resounding 4-0 victory over Genoa.
I just don’t see it happening for them. Juventus’ midfield cracks them open for a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Sunday, February 19
Lecce v. Siena – This is a huge match at the bottom of the table. But make mistake, there is quality to be seen.
Lecce play every match like a wounded animal, and have improved considerably since the holiday break.
Meanwhile Siena recently drew Juventus, beat Napoli (Coppa Intalia), and beat Roma.
30-year old Emanuel Calaio is having possibly his best ever season up top for the Tuscan side, and I’ll pick him to bulge the net in an exciting 1-2 victory for Siena in Apulia.
AS Roma v. Parma – Roma are a side that prominently features some young talent, but they also have experienced heads who should not allow lapses like last weeks humbling at Siena to consistently take the team a few steps backwards.
Totti and De Rossi need to step up in those situations, and will need to be inspirational again against a Parma side that is certainly capable of pulling the upset.
Roma are like a Forrest Gump quote.
3-2 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Cesena v. AC Milan – I think I’ve said enough about Milan. I think Cesena are the worst team in Serie A. I think this should be a comfortable victory.
Genoa v. Chievo Verona – The Flying Donkeys of Chievo Verona are in 15th place, but a victory in Genoa will see them leapfrog their 10th placed hopes.
Both Genoa and Chievo occupy that middle ground where points won and lost still shift the positions of clubs dramatically.
It really depends on who comes up with the moment of magic in these affairs, and offensively Genoa have shown themselves to be far more likely to score.
Palacio is having a great season, and will win another one for Il Grifone, 1-0.
Novara v. Atalanta – Novara’s dual triumphs over Inter will be a real highlight for their fans to remember next year when they are back in Serie B.
If it were up to me those victories alone would guarantee them a place in the top flight next year, but the reality is that Atalanta, a fellow promoted club that started 6 points in the red are currently outpacing the hosts by 11 points.
La Dea and German Denis have cooled a bit lately, but they maintain a safe distance from the drop and will have identified this short trip as a must have 3 points.
Novara have pluck though, and I see a draw in this one. 1-1 at the whistle.
Palermo v. Lazio – Lazio will be more concerned with qualifying for next year’s Champions League than their home loss to Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
Palermo meanwhile are still within a shouting distance of the tournament formerly known as UEFA cup and have continued to surpass my expectations after losing so much talent in the offseason.
La Favorita has been a fortress and if Palermo are up for it, I like them on Sunday. 3-2 in a thriller.
Udinese v. Cagliari – Udinese have lost 3 of 4, twice while leading early. Seems all those who jumped off the Napoli bandwagon and onto theirs may be weighing the Zebrette down.
Now with Di Natale out, Guidolin really needs to find out what his squad is made of and dispatch of a game but injury-ravaged Cagliari side.
The striker closest to the talisman’s league leading 17 tallies is Floro Flores with… 2.
I don’t think Udinese’s backline or Handanovic will be heavily tested. But can they find the breakthrough?
I say yes. 1-0.