The beautiful game became the brutal game in Italy last weekend, in matches that resulted in suspensions for approximately 20 players from squads all over Serie A.
At least one notable ban came for a clever form of dissent, but many resulted from straight reds and the usual suspects accumulating yellows, some not for the first time this term.
Not a bad spectacle for those EPL diehards wishing Serie A would show some of the physicality present in the English game more often.
But we don’t really want to see Italian versions of Stoke or Wolves do we?
So here’s hoping a few of the matches on tap for this weekend hold more intrigue due to the stakes and quality play than they do because of the scars they leave behind.
Except those left on Inter players, of course.
There’s a nice little Saturday planned for you, followed by always feisty Derby d’Italia on Sunday.
Saturday, March 24
AC Milan v. AS Roma – With so many injuries and a match with Barcelona looming, the Rossoneri could be in for a slip-up this weekend. They have been rock solid at the back in the San Siro, and Roma are frail defensively.
But with Borini making his name and Osvaldo back in scoring form, Milan’s makeshift backline will need to really hold firm.
I think they can, but Ibra may also have to forego his rest and come on late to snatch the points for the home side.
For a more extensive preview of this match, check out this piece written by an extremely bright and, from what I hear, handsome fellow.
Palermo v. Udinese – Palermo are like a totally different side at home in Sicily. In fact, they have zero wins away from Stadio Renzo Barbera.
This match will feature two old hands of Italian football going at it in Fabrizio Miccoli and Udinese’s Antonio Di Natale. The latter should be able to grab 1 or 2 tallies against the leaky Palermo D, but the home side are capable of scoring in bunches as well.
Udinese lost 3 key players in that flurry of suspensions and are on the decline after crashing out of the Europa League and have won just once in 7 domestic matches.
They need it more than Palermo, so this should be a good one.
3-2 Palermo, Miccoli with a brace.
Sunday, March 25
Atalanta v. Bologna – Atalanta have a real shot still at finishing in the top ten, and I’m a bit flabbergasted that Bologna currently reside their as well.
There’s really not much between these sides, but I believe the visitors have more options up top leading to a more diverse attack.
Stopping Denis has usually meant stopping Atalanta, and Bologna will play conservatively away from home.
This one has 1-1 written all over it.
Cesena v. Parma – The fact that Cesena’s president Igor Campedelli can’t understand why changing managers 3 times this season hasn’t helped the squad perform really tells you everything you need to understand about the Seahorses.
Parma have been less terrible, but are edging dangerously close to the drop and have given Sebastien Giovinco little choice but to seek employment elsewhere at the end of this campaign. He’ll still come good for them a few more times however.
0-2 to the visitors.
Chievo Verona v. Siena – Remember how I said earlier that I don’t want to see an Italian version of Stoke? Well, we just might have one in Siena. But not necessarily in an anti-football sort of way.
With limited resources, Tony Pulis’ side have been able to solidify their spot in the EPL by knowing just who they are and playing within their means.
Siena do the same, and I could see them sticking around in the bottom half of the table for some time.
Compact and organized, they should find success against a Chievo side that has trouble breaking opponents down.
1-2, Destro on target for the Tuscans.
Genoa v. Fiorentina – Cerci is a good, young player but his frustrated kick out and red card against Juve last weekend was indicative of La Viola’s season so far. As was the subsequent 5-0 thrashing at home.
I wish I had better things to say for Fiorentina fans, but they just haven’t been able to keep it together. They were able to salvage a respectable finish last season, but I don’t think it’s in the cards.
Genoa’s awful defense has been more respectable at home, and Jovetic is seriously slumping.
Lazio v. Cagliari – Cagliari are another team that have played the coaching carousel game, but may have discovered a scoring threat in Argentine Joaquin Larrivey.
He won’t be able to beat 3rd place Lazio all on his own however. Reja’s side has had another rock solid campaign, and should take full points at home.
3-1 to the Romans.
Napoli v. Catania – You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a Copa Libertadores match with all of the South American talent on display.
Catania are just 6 points back of a Napoli side lucky to still be in 4th place, and are a team none of the big boys should sleep on.
To the untrained eye this looks like a Napoli romp, but Mazzarri’s men will need to be at their best if they don’t want to share the spoils.
2-1 to the Azzurri.
Novara v. Lecce – Who doesn’t love a good relegation scrap? Lecce have the more realistic shot at survival, but Novara have had their moments this season. Just ask Inter!
Both teams should throw caution to the wind, and I predict a seesaw 2-2 draw.
Juventus v. Internazionale – I absolutely hate being put in a position where I should root for Inter, but I want Juventus off of Milan’s back.
Unfortunately (or is it? God this is hard) I doubt Ranieri can inspire his restless side to victory in Turin on Sunday. He couldn’t even inspire Diego Forlan to get off of the bench last weekend.
Juve have owned this matchup throughout history and I expect them to throw one more in the win column on Sunday.
However, this weekend will be one of the few times I hope that I’m wrong about the Nerazzurri.