The Milan derby is the highlight of another busy weekend of Italian football, and Chris Mann is here to preview all the action.
I know I always say this, but (and this time I really, really mean it) this weekend’s programme of Serie A action is set to be an absolute cracker. The Milan derby is the headline game of week 21, but Juventus versus Roma will also provide plenty of entertainment for the armchair connoisseur of Italian football. Here’s a little taste of what we can expect over the next couple of days.
As I’ve already briefly mentioned, Sunday night sees Serie A’s top two clubs and the fiercest of rivals go head-to-head in the Derby della Madonnina. Second-placed Milan, Italy’s form team, take on reigning Champions and current league leader’s Internazionale in the vociferous, cauldron-like surrounds of the San Siro. When the two teams met for the first time this season back in August it was Jose Mourinho’s Inter who claimed the bragging rights in Italy’s most prestigious derby, thrashing Leonardo’s Milan 4-0. However, such a lopsided result this time around seems highly unlikely. After a shaky start to the season, the Rossoneri have been in good form since mid-October and are now putting real pressure on an increasingly inconsistent Inter at the top of the table. Going into this instalment of the derby Inter hold a six-point lead over their rivals, but Milan have a game in hand and could be just three points off the summit of the league with a win on Sunday. With Ronaldinho having rediscovered some of his very best form and David Beckham providing an added attacking edge, this game might well come to represent something of a sea change in the current Serie A campaign.
Although overshadowed in part by the Milan derby, the clash between Roma and Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night is very much equal in significance. Claudio Ranieri, who was somewhat unfairly sacked by the Bianconeri at the end of last season, will be keen to put one over his former employers by deepening the crisis which currently envelops the Turin club. Roma’s superb eleven-match unbeaten run has seen the Giallorossi gain in confidence and, with the return of club captain Francesco Totti this weekend, will go into the game as favourites against Ciro Ferrara’s struggling side. Should Roma inflict yet another defeat on Juve, then it may well be that Ranieri becomes the manager responsible for his successor’s removal, how ironic…
With the games in Milan and Rome taking centre-stage, the other games taking place might find themselves ignored to some extent, but, of all the other games, Fiorentina’s trip to Palermo is possibly the most appealing. These are two clubs both with their eye on a Champions League place and both in relatively good form. Palermo are undefeated in their last six games but are likely to be missing star striker Edinson Cavani when they take on La Viola, an absence which can only be detrimental to the Aquile. Fiorentina, on the other hand, have won three of their last five and yet have still slipped down the table in recent weeks. Cesare Prandelli’s side will be desperate to pick up a win in Sicily to get their lofty ambitions back on track.
Week 21 Fixtures in Full
Catania v Parma
Juventus v Roma (Live on ESPN)
Bologna v Bari
Genoa v Atalanta
Lazio v Chievo
Livorno v Napoli
Palermo v Fiorentina (Live on ESPN)
Siena v Cagliari
Udinese v Sampdoria
Internazionale v Milan (Live on ESPN)