Three must watch matches in Serie A this weekend: preview and predictions
After last week's top of the table shuffle which saw Inter overtake Napoli in first place, the top three in Serie A are separated by only two points. To make things even more exciting, Roma and Lazio are in fourth and fifth place and sit five and seven points behind respectively, but both have a game in hand so could make the race even tighter. It has surely been an amazing season in Italy and will continue this weekend with these three must watch matches:
Juventus vs Inter (Saturday at 20:45 Italian time), the Derby d'Italia
This is one of the biggest matches on the schedule every season, but this one will have the most meaning in a long time. Inter currently sit above Juventus in the table, and will look to do what Napoli couldn't do last week and beat the bianconeri. It will be a great litmus test for Inter, as they are traveling to Turin and a victory will confirm their status as title contenders. Juventus, meanwhile, will look to defeat Inter and show the world that while it is a fun idea that Napoli and Inter can challenge for the title, they are here to stay.
Players to watch
Juventus - Giorgio Chiellini
Chiellini is in unfamiliar territory as he is going to be playing a huge match without Buffon, Bonucci or Barzagli by his side. Will be interesting to see how he handles Mauro Icardi without his fellow stalwarts...
Inter - Mauro Icardi
Who else? Icardi has been in amazing form this season, and has showed up time and time again when Inter needed him the most. He could be the difference maker in this fixture.
Prediction - Juventus 2-1 Inter
While I believe Inter will be a tougher test for Juventus than Napoli was, it is hard to bet against Juventus at home. Inter is coming into this match fresh since they aren't in Europe, and very healthy. That is the difference between them and Napoli last week. Icardi will definitely get on the scoresheet as Juventus won't have Buffon back there to command the defense alongside Chiellini, but at the end of the day Juventus have too much going forward and will edge past the nerazzurri.
Napoli vs Fiorentina (Sunday at 15:00 Italian time)
This is an interesting fixture for a few reasons. The first being that Napoli is coming off a deflating loss to Juventus and elimination from the Champions League. Fiorentina on the other hand is clicking as they had an impressive performance against Lazio, drawing 1-1, and a 3-0 demolition of Sassuolo last week. Napoli will want to show that they are not slumping and the past week was just a blip. Fiorentina, meanwhile, will want to keep the momentum going and get another impressive result as they fight for a Europa League spot.
Players to watch
Napoli - Marek Hamsik
Hamsik has not been at his best this season. It is possible that he is being weighed down by Maradona's goal record, but without Ghoulam and Insigne down the important left flank for Napoli, Hamsik will have to step up and create for the partenopei.
Fiorentina - Federico Chiesa
Chiesa played really well last week against Sassuolo and against Lazio, and with Napoli's high pressure he could be the difference maker as his speed and skill will cause problems on the counterattack.
Prediction Napoli 3-2 Fiorentina
Look for a very entertaining affair. Fiorentina will surely cause Napoli problems as they have solid attacking options in Chiesa, Saponara and Simeone. It will be tough for Napoli to keep a clean sheet but I think Jorginho, Hamsik and Mertens will be too much for Fiorentina and they will squeak by a victory. There was so much optimism around Napoli's season up until the defeat to Juventus, so expect a strong performance at home where they show that they will get back on track and be serious title contenders.
Milan vs Bologna (Sunday at 20:45 Italian time)
This is always a competitive contest and this one will be no different. Milan is coming off a run of bad results. They first lost to Napoli and drew to Torino which got Montella fired, and since Gattuso has taken over they gave Benevento their first point in Serie A history and lost to Rijeka in the Europa League, although with an experimental side. Bologna are tied with the rossoneri in the standings and are having a nice season. Gennaro Gattuso mentioned that he will be returning to a 4-3-3 formation this match, so it will be interesting to see how Milan perform with that setup as they are desperate for a win.
Players to watch
Milan - Suso
Suso has been inconsistent this season, but has been played out of position many times. He has performed very well in matches where he is put on his usual right wing, and that's where he will be this weekend in the 4-3-3. Look for him to be the difference maker.
Bologna - Simone Verdi
Verdi has been very good for Bologna this season, and has been in great form lately. He is a former Milan youth product and they tend to play well against the rossoneri when given the opportunity.
Prediction - Milan 2-0 Bologna
Milan are desperate for a victory and the 4-3-3 will surely help them get it. The formation puts their best player, Suso, in a position where he can do damage. Bonucci and Musacchio look to be the defensive partnership, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust to a two man central defense together. Bologna will cause Milan problems on the counterattack, but the change in formation will have Milan players in more familiar roles and the link between midfield and attack should be better. Gattuso is due for his first victory.