• @FabioPendolino

Serie A round 28 preview: Tribute to Davide Astori

After the postponement of the 27th round to April due to Davide Astori's tragic passing, Serie A is coming back this weekend. There will be a minute of silence before every game to honor the Viola captain. The only teams who played last round were Juventus, who won against Lazio, and Napoli who lost to Roma. This has put the Bianconeri closer to first place, only one point away from Sarri’s team with a game in hand (against Atalanta on March 14th). SPAL also made an important move regarding the race to avoid relegation due to their three points taken against Bologna, which has brought the team to a total of 23 points, the same number Sassuolo, their next opponent.

Here are all the games of round 28:

Friday March 9th:

20.45 Roma – Torino

Saturday March 10th:

20.45 Hellas – Chievo

Sunday March 11th:

12.30 Fiorentina – Benevento

15.00 Juventus – Udinese

15.00 Bologna – Atalanta

15.00 Crotone – Sampdoria

15.00 Cagliari – Lazio

15.00 Sassuolo – SPAL

18.00 Genoa – Milan

20.45 Inter – Napoli

(time is expressed in local time – GMT+1)

Games to watch

Fiorentina vs Benevento (March 11th at 12.30 local time)

On Sunday, the Viola will play their first game without Davide Astori. Their objective will be to honor the defender’s memory after the moving ceremony that took place in Florence this week for his funeral; Benevento’s players will have a special jersey for the game.

It will be the second game all-time between the two teams after the first leg that Fiorentina won 3-0. Regarding the line-ups, Benevento won’t be playing an easy game as Antei, D’Alessandro and Sandro (doubtful to be there) will miss it. Cataldi and Guilherme will try to fill in the voids while Pioli is able to count on his whole squad. Thereau should start the game on Simeone’s side. With Benevento conceding at least two goals in their last seven Serie A away games, there might be some interesting action going on.

Probable formations

Fiorentina (4-3-3): Sportiello; Laurini, Milenkovic, Pezzella, Biraghi; Badelj, Benassi, Veretout; Chiesa, Simeone, Thereau.

Benevento (4-3-3): Puggioni; Sagna, Tosca, Djimsiti, Letizia; Memushaj, Cataldi, Djuricic; Guilherme, Coda, Brignola.

Players to watch

Fiorentina: Cyril Thereau

The French forward has only scored 4 goals in 19 Serie A games this season under the Fiorentina shirt. If he isn’t at his best yet, this might be a good chance for him as his last goal in a league match was against Benevento. He also is the Fiorentina player who made the most assists this, with season (4).

Benevento: Bacary Sagna

After three games, the right wingback is to be considered a starter. He began with 18 minutes in his first Italian match against Roma, then played 45 minutes against Crotone and made it the whole game against Inter. He’s a class addition to the relegation-fighting side and should definitely be a good help on his flank against Chiesa.

Prediction: Fiorentina 2 – 0 Benevento

If football hasn’t been the most important things for a lot of Italian fans this week, especially for those in Florence, Pioli’s team should want to play a good game for Astori. Benevento has struggled in the past games and the Europa League zone is not so far away for the Viola.

Genoa vs Milan (March 11th at 18.00 local time)

At the Marassi stadium, Genoa has won the last three games against Milan in Serie A without giving up any goals. It will be the 100th match between the two teams with 47 wins for the Rossoneri, 33 for the Rossoblù and 19 draws. While Milan would want to pursue their return in the league, especially after the 2-0 defeat against Arsenal in Europa League, Genoa has won three out of the last four home games in Serie A. On the other hand, the Grifone need points if the teams below them come up: with 30 points and the 13th position in the table, the relegation zone is not so far away.

Regarding the squads, Giuseppe Rossi is back in the group but Ballardini should start with Pandev and Galabinov to lead the offensive front. Izzo, Veloso and Taarabt’s conditions are getting better, but the first two shouldn’t be called up while the third one should start on the bench.

On Milan’s side, there might be a doubt regarding Calabria after the hit he took against Arsenal while Borini could start instead of Calhanoglu. Kalinic should also take Cutrone’s place as center forward.

Probable formations

Genoa (3-5-2): Perin; Biraschi, Spolli, Zukanovic; Rosi, Rigoni, Bertolacci, Hiljemark, Laxalt; Galabinov, Pandev.

Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Antonelli; Kessié, Montolivo, Bonaventura; Suso, Kalinic, Borini.

Players to watch

Genoa: Diego Laxalt

The left wingback is one of Genoa’s best players this season and he’s taken part in three out of the four last goals his team has scored (two goals, one assist). He also scored a brace against Milan on his first Serie A game, against Milan, in september 2013 under Bologna’s jersey.

Milan: Nikola Kalinic

It might be the Croatian’s chance to prove his qualities after the youngster Cutrone got the starter spot. After missing the SPAL and Sampdoria games due to a pubalgia, he got back for the match against Roma where he played 23 minutes and made an assist. He also played 50 minutes against Lazio in the Coppa Italia return leg without having a serious impact; in this attack department where everything isn’t at its best, every chance can be used to change Rino Gattuso’s mind.

Prediction: Milan 1 – 1 Genoa

After the deception in Europa and the substitutes starting this game, Milan will want to get back on track especially while their great 8-games without losing run is still ongoing. Genoa has shown they’re not an easy opponent though, especially in their stadium, the Marassi. They could also be helped by the tiredness of the Rossoneri who are still playing on three fronts.

Inter vs Napoli (March 11th at 20.45 local time)

With Juventus getting closer to the first position, Napoli can’t make a lot other mistakes after the loss against Roma. Meeting Inter will be an interesting fixture as the Nerazzurri celebrated their 110th birthday this Friday and will welcome their captain Icardi back among the starters. Spalletti’s side needs to do better than what they have done lately and even if this will be a tough game, it appears like the perfect moment to make an important move in the Champions League race. Another interesting aspect of the game will be the Slovakian derby between Skriniar and Hamsik, both among most important players in their respective teams.

Not only will Icardi be back but Miranda should also start this game next to Skriniar. Rafinha should start his second game in the row as the trequartista position is still a problem for Spalletti, until the Brazilian proves he’s better than the other solutions. Vecino and Borja Valero are announced to start over Gagliardini who’s not in the best moment of his season, while Ranocchia is out because of an injury.

While Milik has been called up as back from his injury, Sarri can count on most of his group as only Chiriches and Ghoulam aren’t part of it. His starting line-up should be the usual one.

Probable formations

Inter (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Cancelo, Skriniar, Miranda, D’Ambrosio; Borja Valero, Vecino; Perisic, Rafinha, Candreva; Icardi.

Napoli (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Rui; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne.

Players to watch

Inter: Mauro Icardi

Inter has been missing il capitano for four games: the club’s top scorer with 18 goals is probably Spalletti’s best player this season with Skriniar. Both Eder and Pinamonti couldn’t fill in the void and haven’t quite convinced during Maurito’s absence. After staying on the bench during the last game against Benevento and having a full week to train before this match, Icardi should be close to be back at his best condition.

Napoli: Dries Mertens

The Belgian striker has been on fire with 8 goals scored in his last 8 games, after a long break without scoring. He’s scored one less goal than Icardi (17) but has made 6 assists while the Argentinean forward has only made one. The Napoli striker then wins the current form duel against Icardi as he gets at San Siro fully ready, while the Nerazzurro’s last scored goals was against Fiorentina (January 5th).

Prediction: Inter 1 – 3 Napoli

Inter has only won one of its last 10 Serie A games against Napoli (4 draws, 5 losses) and hasn’t scored a goal in the last three. Even if Luciano Spalletti’s squad hasn’t lost a home game in five fixtures (three draws and the wins against Bologna and Benevento), they haven’t showed enough to prove they could win over one of Serie A’s top teams. Their captain coming back, alongside Rafinha could be what was needed to end their run of poor form.

Finally, the loss against Roma looks like an accident as Napoli hasn’t lost an away game in 26 Serie A matches (club’s record).

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