After Juventus blew the Serie A title race wide open with their win over Inter in last week’s Derby d’Italia, this weekend sees the top three all desperate not to slip up in what should be a relatively straightforward set of fixtures for the clubs at the top of the table. There are also relegation battles to be fought and a number of interesting games up and down the league.
After their set-back against Juventus last weekend, all eyes will be on Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale this week as they attempt to bounce back against Lombardy rivals Atalanta at the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia. Although Atalanta sit a lowly seventeenth in the table, the Nerazzurri will have to be at their best if they are to overcome the hosts who inflicted a crushing 3-1 defeat on the eventual Scudetto winners in the corresponding fixture last season. Inter are also in the midst of a mini injury crisis with Quaresma, Santon, Stankovic and Samuel all missing and Sulley Muntari suspended. This is a game that the league leaders should win comfortably, but we as yet don’t know the affect last week’s defeat has had on Mourinho’s men, and this could prove a real test of Inter’s Championship credentials.
Conversely, Inter’s Derby d’Italia conquerors Juventus travel to Bari on Saturday confident in the knowledge that their title challenge is back on. At least, that’s what you might think, but if reports coming out of Turin are correct then Ciro Ferrara might well face the sack if his side fail to beat Bari after they crashed out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich in mid-week. This makes the trip south an extremely important one for the Bianconeri, a team that face the difficult but achievable task of beating a Bari side that have been very strong at home this season. However, Felipe Melo and Diego, the Old Lady’s two marquee summer signings, have struggled for form of late and the team is relying on the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Claudio Marchisio to keep it on the tracks. Juve, like Inter, are also struggling with a long injury list. Vincenzo Iaquinta, Gigi Buffon, Mohammed Sissoko and Giorgio Chiellini have all been ruled out of Saturday’s game, whilst Melo will miss out through suspension. It is imperative, both for the club’s title aspirations and Ciro Ferrara’s job, that Juve beat Bari. Anything else could have catastrophic consequences for the Turin club.
Second-placed Milan welcome Palermo to the San Siro on Sunday afternoon with Leonardo’s side looking to extend their current run of good form. Having made it through to the last sixteen of the Champions League in mid-week (albeit a close-run thing), the Rossoneri should be confident of beating a Palermo side that has only taken five points from the last fifteen available. With Ronaldinho starting to find some form and Alexandre Pato and Marco Borriello thriving off his service, Milan have now started to look like genuine title contenders. With Gianluca Zambrotta returning from suspension il Diavolo should be able to field a full-strength side for the visit of the Aquile and should be confident of taking the three points.
High-flying Parma will be hoping to consolidate their current spot in the top four with another victory as lowly Bologna make the short trip to Stadio Tardini. The hosts welcome back Valeri Bojinov and Alberto Paloschi from injury to strengthen their squad, whilst Bologna will be hoping to see more of the improvements that have seen Franco Colomba’s side take seven points from their last five games and start to move away from the relegation zone. This should be a spicy local derby, but expect Parma’s extra quality to tell over the ninety minutes.
An in-form Roma travel to Sampdoria in what is the pick of the weekend’s other games, whilst Catania meet Livorno in a relegation “six-pointer”, Lazio face a stern test as Genoa visit the Stadio Olimpico, Fiorentina travel to Chievo in a buoyant mood after their mid-week win at Anfield, bottom club Siena host Udinese and Cagliari play Napoli in a mid-table clash. It should be another great week of Serie A action.
Week 16 Fixtures in Full:
Cagliari v Napoli (Prediction: Draw)
Bari v Juventus (Prediction: Draw)
Atalanta v Inter (Prediction: Inter Win)
Catania v Livorno (Prediction: Draw)
Chievo v Fiorentina (Prediction: Fiorentina Win)
Lazio v Genoa (Prediction: Genoa Win)
Milan v Palermo (Prediction: Milan Win)
Parma v Bologna (Prediction: Parma Win)
Siena v Udinese (Prediction: Udinese Win)
Sampdoria v Roma (Prediction: Draw)