Well. What a difference a few weeks have made.
After the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 I was relatively comfortable in my assertion that all 3 Italian teams would continue to roll on.
Milan and Napoli both held comfortable leads heading to London while Inter had the reasonable task of overturning just a 1 goal deficit at home against Marseille.
But it’s only the Rossoneri who advance, and even then by the skin of their teeth.
Coefficients aside, any Inter misery still pleases me greatly, but Napoli’s capitulation at Stamford Bridge was much more difficult to swallow.
The side recently touted as the most exciting and un-Italian in Serie A showed just how un-Italian they were by proving utterly incapable of clearing a cross.
It’s still impressive to me that Serie A had the most squads in the knockout rounds, but with only Milan to continue flying il Tricolore in Europe, this tournament must be counted as a missed opportunity to raise the reputation of an oft trod-upon league.
But let’s not dwell on disappointment, on to this weekend’s fixtures! And WAGs!
Saturday, March 17
Parma v. AC Milan – Giovinco worries me. The diminutive Azzurri man is tough to dispossess and could run circles around some of Milan’s defenders. Thiago Silva has his work cut out for him.
That said, Parma have some serious problems at the back, and with an angry Ibra likely to pair with Milan’s own little spitfire Stephan El Shaarawy, there should be plenty of goals to be had.
Fiorentina v. Juventus – It’s convenient to have the two clubs duking it out for the Scudetto playing on the same day. Juve’s draws have really caught up to them and they find themselves 4 points adrift of the reigning champs. Although I can admit at least one questionable decision may have robbed them of a win against Bologna last round.
But with all of the firepower they’ve stockpiled, scoring has been an issue of late. With only three goals in their last four games, I think the constant carousel of forwards might actually be hurting them build consistency up front.
Still, Fiorentina will need to show the attacking intent that’s been so lacking for them this season to get past Serie A’s most solid defense. Without Jovetic, I doubt it will come off for La Viola.
0-1 for the Bianconeri.
Sunday, March 18
Cagliari v. Cesena – Cagliari need all the points they can get down there in 17th. They’re 6 points from relegation but Lecce are much improved.
You’d think there’d be optimism heading into a winnable match at home against awful Cesena, but after the 6-3 loss to Napoli this weekend the Sardinian club pulled the old Serie A Switcheroo and fired coach Davide Ballardini, to be replaced of course by the man who had been fired before him, Massimo Ficcadenti.
The Serie A owners who make these ridiculous decisions make Roman Abramovich seem stable.
I hope Cagliari lose.
0-2. Do it Mutu!
Bologna v. Chievo Verona – It’s not a huge surprise to me that Bologna and Chievo are fairly close in the table at this point in the season. But it is a surprise that Bologna sit atop their visitors, due to their awful early form.
This could be a good one. Tune in to see the continued growth of Michael Bradley or the duel between old Italian pros Sergio Pellissier and Marco Di Vaio.
This is a tough one to call, but Chievo do not travel well.
Catania v. Lazio – Catania hounding Inter and Roma is as much a testament to their solid form as it is the others’ inconsistency. The Sicilians have been solid and fairly balanced since the end of the Maxi Lopez era.
Lodi is a real threat in dead ball situations and Barrientos and Bergessio have picked up the slack.
Lazio would prefer to have a better defensive record, but have made up for it with attacking play atypical of this team.
Should be a good one in Sicily.
Internazionale v. Atalanta – Both of these teams have settled for many draws, but for Atalanta many of those points will still have been seen as a victory.
Inter should want to bounce back after the disappointment of the midweek, and on paper, should totally win this game.
That’s not the Inter of this year though. Dispirited, lead by a man who won’t be there in a few weeks, and on the verge of real upheaval in the squad come summer.
Atalanta are quite capable of springing a surprise away from home. I’ve been impressed with the recent play of Guido Marilungo, who needs more playing time next to Denis.
1-2 to La Dea.
Lecce v. Palermo – Lecce are the only club in the drop zone with a legitimate chance to avoid relegation.
They’ve been better away from home this season, but must make another strong stand against a dynamic but flawed Palermo side.
If they can score early, expect to see a bright red and yellow striped bus.
Not that they are good enough defensively to make that work.
1-1 in an ugly affair.
Siena v. Novara – Siena always looked a bit more ready for the top flight than hapless, plucky Novara.
Siena will really go for it hoping to get to the magic 40 point mark sooner rather than later.
And Novara have little to lose. I see goals.
Udinese v. Napoli – By far the juiciest fixture on this week’s list, slipping Udinese take on rising (domestically at least) Napoli.
Even on points, and both capable of playing great, flowing counterattack football, I think this one actually comes down to the defense.
And Chelsea gave Udinese a pretty good blueprint for success on Wednesday.
They don’t have a great aerial threat, but Armero can get in wide spaces and whip balls in, which Di Natale and Floro Flores will be glad to finish.
Meanwhile Mehdi Banatia shines on a talented Udinese defense.
2-1 for the Zebrette.
Monday, March 19
AS Roma v. Genoa – Roma have a very diverse offense. They’ve spread the goals around, but may have found a consistent source as well in young Fabio Borini. who has scored in 4 straight matches.
They’ve still got issues at the back, but nowhere near as poor as the visiting side.
13th seems too high for a Genoa side essentially carried by Rodrigo Palacio. They’ve given up 48 goals, yet they sit comfortably 8 points above the drop.
Roma can score a bunch, if Roma show up.
4-2, consolation late for the visitors.