With the business end of the season upon Serie A, an important weekend of fixtures presents itself, especially for league leaders Inter Milan, who will see this as a chance to extend their four point lead at the top of the table.
Fiorentina will play Juventus at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, a chance for the home side to get within three points of their Turin rivals and close in on the number of sides that are battling for that last Champions League spot. Felipe Melo will return to the club he left in the summer of 2009.
“I owe everything to Fiorentina” graciously said Melo prior to the Saturday evening clash.
Desperate: Felipe Melo will do anything to get Juventus back on track, starting with a win in Florence tonight
Despite this Juventus, and Melo, are desperate for a victory after last weeks defeat at home to Palermo.
The other Saturday evening game plots second against third with AS Roma taking on AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico. Luca Toni is set to return for the capital side although he might be restricted to a place on the bench due to the goal scoring form of Mirko Vucinic. Meanwhile in the northern part of Italy AC Milan will undoubtely have one eye on their crunch match with Manchester United in the Champions League. One of the few revelations for AC Milan this season, Thaigo Silva who is “demanding” a victory over AS Roma in order to boost their Scudetto chances.
The battle between second and third will be watched closely by Jose Mourinho’s men as a AS Roma win will give them a chance to open up a seven point gap although they have to over come a Genoa side that is chasing European football. Diego Milito and Thaigo Motta will return to the club that resurrected their careers. This week Mario Balotelli has been supported by Marcelo Lippi to put in performances that will put him in contention for the Italy World Cup squad and this might be one of those games that Balotelli can catch Lippi’s eye again after putting in an impressive display against Udinese in Inter’s 3-2 victory last Sunday. With Genoa sitting in 9th place, they are still in touching distance of Palermo who sit in the coveted fourth Champions League spot. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side will also want to make up for their shock 4-3 defeat at home to Bologna.
After climbing into fourth place last week after a historic win over Juventus in Turin, Palermo face relegation strugglers Livorno, who allowed Siena to gain vital ground on them with a 2-1 defeat to the Robur at home. Although a routine victory looks on the cards for the Sicilian side, this is where Palermo have slipped up in the past, against the so called lesser teams of Serie A.
Dello Rossi: A victory over Livorno will keep them on track for the Champions League
Napoli also have a chance to get back on track whow are without a win in four matches. They visit the picturesque surroundings of Bologna to take on a side that is close to reaching the holy grail of 40 points. A starter for Italy midweek, Christian Maggio, believes that they have “entered the delicate phase of the season”.
Walter Mazzari will also be hoping for a victory as they are without a win in their last four matches, although with teams also slipping up around them they are still firmly in the hunt for a Champions League place.
A surprise package this season, Bari, have had four straight defeats but they will have a chance to get back on track against a depleted in Cheivo Verona team who are missing some key players such as Mario Yepes and Macro Marcolini. Bari manager Giampeiro Ventura is never one to look at the negatives in football. His side were outclassed last weekend by Catania in a 4-0 drubbing yet post match he said, “If we play like we did against Catania, we won’t lose many games”. Bari will have to improve if they want to get their season back on track as they havea realistic chance of finishing in the top half of the table.
In the other games in Serie A, lowly Atalanta face the team that pushed Inter Milan all the way last weekend, Udinese. After re-hiring Pasquale Marino, they have found their attacking instinct again although away from home this never worked for Marino which is why he was fired earlier in the season. Atalanta desperately need a win in order to close the gap on Lazio who face a tough trip to face Sampdoria, a team coming back into form despite a 1-0 defeat to Parma last Sunday.
Bottom of the table Siena take on Parma with a new found confidence, and at home, Siena is a difficult game for any team especially with the Robur fighting to keep their Serie A status. Cagliari take on Catania in a battle of the islands in Serie A. This should be an exciting game for the fans as both sides will be going for the victory, albeit for very different reasons. Cagliari are chasing an unlikely Europa League spot while Catania will be hoping to build on their last with Sinisa Mijhalovic giving the players freedom to expres themselves on the pitch.
Week 27 could be the week Inter Milam extend their lead at the top of the table but with a AC Milan win in Rome and a Genoa win at the San Siro, the gap could be down to a single point and it would be game on between these great rivals.