Serie A Matchday 25 Preview: three matches to watch
After some disappointing results in the European cups, Italian teams will return to domestic business as they prepare for another round of Serie A games in matchday 25. Leaders Napoli (63 points) will host struggling SPAL at the San Paolo, while Juventus (62 points) will face Torino (36 points) in the “Derby della Mole”. Behind the two runaway leaders, Inter, Roma and Lazio are still very close to each other but in very different situations. Lazio (46 pts.) have in fact lost four consecutive games, while Roma (47 pts.) and Inter (48 pts.) seem to have bounced back after having struggled to find form for the last two months. Here are all the fixtures of Serie A round 25:
MATCHES TO WATCH
Udinese vs Roma (February 17th at 15:00 local time)
After defeating relegation candidates Hellas Verona and Benevento in their last two games, Roma have to show that they are back on track against Europa League contenders Udinese. It won’t be an easy task for Giallorossi, since coach Di Francesco seems set to make many changes in the formation to preserve some players for the Champions League match against Shaktar Donetsk. On the flip side, their opponents Udinese seem to have lost the good form they had in the first games under new coach Massimo Oddo, as they managed to take three points only in one of their last six matches and will also miss their top goalscorer so far Kevin Lasagna due to an injury.
UDINESE (3-5-2): Bizzarri; Larsen, Danilo, Samir; Widmer, Barak, Behrami, Jankto, Zampano; De Paul, Maxi Lopez.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Juan Jesus; Pellegrini, De Rossi; Under, Nainggolan, Perotti, Dzeko.
Players to watch
Roma – Cengiz Under
The Turkish gem is finally shining for Roma, after a first half-season in the shadow. With three goals in the last two appearances, Under has been a crucial factor in Roma’s resurgence and his coach Di Francesco is sure that he will keep improving. Udinese’s experienced defence will be an interesting challenge to test Roma’s winger qualities.
Udinese – Antonin Barak
Udinese are known for their ability to find new talents from every corner of the world. Czech midfielder Antonin Barak is definitely the player who has impressed the most for the Friulani in the first part of the season, scoring 7 goals in 21 games, not bad for a midfielder. His quality and ability to run in the space could create havoc in Roma’s defence.
Prediction: Udinese 2-1 Roma
This match could be an upset for Roma, despite Giallorossi’s rebirth in the last few games. Udinese are not to be underestimated as they are one of the most lethal teams on the counter. Roma’s players’ minds could be already on Champions League match against Shaktar and Udinese could be ready to exploit their distraction with their rapid vertical play and strong midfield.
Torino vs Juventus (February 18th at 12:30 local time)
Torino and Juventus will face themselves for the third time this season to try and claim Turin bragging rights in the Derby della Mole. After Mazzarri’s arrival, Torino seem to be more solid and concrete, having conceded only two goals in the last five games. On the other hand, Juventus want to forget the European disappointing result against Tottenham as soon as possible. Good news for the Bianconeri is that Dybala could be back on the bench after missing out last four games.
TORINO (4-3-3): Sirigu; De Silvestri, N’Koulou, Burdisso, Molinaro; Baselli, Rincon, Obi; Iago Falque, Belotti, Niang
JUVENTUS (4-3-2-1): Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Marchisio; Bernardeschi, Mandzukic; Higuain
Players to watch
Torino – Iago Falque
The Spanish winger has done his best to fill in Belotti’s role as goalscorer for Torino so far. With his 9 goals and 5 assists, Iago Falque has been the dynamo that has kept the Granata engine running. His constant movements and quick feet will be not easy to contain for Juventus left-back Alex Sandro.
Juventus – Gonzalo Higuain
El Pipita is back. After some games without scoring, Higuain has found his shooting boots again and now he is back to be the unstoppable scoring machine that everyone knows. Last year he was decisive scoring a brace in Juventus win at the Stadio Grande Torino, now everyone expects him to do the same on Sunday.
Prediction: Torino 1-1 Juventus
Torino have not won any of their last seven matches against Juventus and Bianconeri’s recent form is not a factor in favour of Mazzarri’s team. Anyway, Tottenham match could have had some repercussions on Juventus confidence, especially because under Mazzarri the Granata have shown more maturity in handling difficult games like this. It will be also the duel between two solid defences and dangerous strikers, as both Belotti and Higuain seem to have returned to scoring goals consistently, and this may lead to a draw.
Milan vs Sampdoria (February 18th at 20:45 local time)
Gattuso’s cure is still working for Milan, as the Rossoneri seem a completely different team that they were under Montella. The Rossoneri want to keep climbing the table and keep their Champions League hopes alive. On the other hand, Sampdoria are outdoing themselves: they sit 6th in the table, three points above their next opponents. It will definitely be an entertaining match, with both teams willing to get a win that could mean a lot for their future ambitions.
MILAN (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Locatelli, Biglia, Bonaventura; Suso, Cutrone, Calhanoglu
SAMPDORIA (4-3-1-2): Viviano; Bereszynski, Silvestre, Ferrari, Murru; Barreto, Torreira, Linetty; Ramirez; Quagliarella, Zapata
Players to watch
Milan – Hakan Calhanoglu
The former Bayer Leverkusen offensive midfielder is following in his fellow countryman Cengiz Under’s footsteps, as he has just begun to show his qualities. Gattuso managed to find a role that suits him in Milan’s new formation and now he is consistently performing with assists and quality plays, that have been one of the key factors in Rossoneri’s good form.
Sampdoria – Lucas Torreira
The Uruguayan midfielder is the fulcrum of Sampdoria’s football. He is a total midfielder: he is strong, agile, good with the ball and on set pieces. Many big clubs have already eyed him and he is ready to show his qualities once again in one of the most important stadiums in the world like San Siro. The duel with Kessié will be one of the most interesting battles of the match.
Prediction: Milan 2-1 Sampdoria
It will be a close game. The Rossoneri have found in youngster Cutrone that prolific striker that they were looking for when they bought Kalinic and André Silva last summer, while Sampdoria defence isn’t always impeccable. Motivation and determination will make the difference and right now Milan seem to be stronger on the mental side.