Serie A Matchday 32 preview
The European mid-week fixtures brought some mixed results for Italian football. Current Serie A leader Juventus’ (81 points) hopes of a great remuntada were crushed by last minute penalty call, slotted in by Real Madrid’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. Now the Bianconeri can focus solely on winning their seventh Scudetto in a row, with their main and only contender Napoli trailing behind them with 77 points. Speaking of remuntada, Champions League gladiators of Roma will face another very tense match as the two teams of the capital team will face each other in one of the most passionate derbies of Italian football. Lazio and Roma are currently in 3rd and 4th place respectively, but tied for points at 60. Rome and Milan have never been this close, as behind the two teams of the Italian capital there are Inter (one point behind them with 59) and Milan (52 pts.) still hoping of a European spot next season. Things are getting interesting also in the relegation zone, where six teams are packed in the space of 5 points with Crotone and Verona currently most at risk in 18th and 19th place respectively.
Here are all the matches of Serie A matchday 32:
Saturday, April 14th (time GMT +1)
Cagliari – Udinese
Chievo – Torino
Genoa – Crotone
Atalanta – Inter
Sunday, April 15th (time GMT +1)
Fiorentina – SPAL
Sassuolo – Benevento
Bologna – Verona
Milan – Napoli
Juventus – Sampdoria
Lazio – Roma
GAMES TO WATCH
Milan – Napoli
As the end of the season approaches, every game becomes more and more important. That’s especially the case for Milan and Napoli, as they may be their last call for reaching their respective goals. Both teams are living a similar moment. After chasing the team above them for most part of the season, the Rossoneri seem now a bit tired, as they have drawn two and lost one of their last three games. On Sunday at San Siro they will find themselves against another tough opponent: Sarri’s side doesn’t look like the exciting team it has been for most of the season, but against Chievo last week they managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat in the last minute, getting a vital win for the Scudetto race.
MILAN (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria, Zapata, Musacchio, Rodriguez; Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura; Suso, André Silva, Calhanoglu.
NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Milan – Nikola Kalinic
Most Milan fans would probably disagree with this pick, as Kalinic is not really a fan favourite. Although he has not been prolific as expected, the Croatian striker has scored 5 goals this season, and 4 of them were fundamental in getting points for his team: a brace against Udinese with the final score being 2-1, one goal against Benevento in the infamous game of Brignoli’s goal and, last but not least important, the late equaliser against Sassuolo to keep their Champions League hope still alive. Should Gattuso choose him to play, Kalinic could profit on the down period of Napoli’s defence right now.
Napoli – Arkadiusz Milik
The Polish striker chose the best time to celebrate his return to scoring ways, as his header against Chievo was the first step of Azzurri’s last week’s comeback. After being sidelined for most of the season with a ruptured cruciate ligament, Milik is proving to be an important asset for Sarri’s last stint of the season, offering his coach a different playstyle solution.
Milan 1 – 2 Napoli
It will be a close game; the two teams are not in their best shape and motivation could be the difference here. Napoli can’t afford to drop points in this game as that would be the nail on the coffin for their Scudetto’s hopes, should Juventus win against Sampdoria. Milan will also miss their starter centre backs, as Romagnoli went off injured after 4 minutes against Sassuolo and will be sidelinded for at least 15 days, while Bonucci picked up a yellow card in the last few minutes of that same game and will be banned for Napoli clash. Their replacements Zapata and Musacchio haven’t played much this season and their characteristics may not be ideal in the battle against Napoli’s quick forwards.
Juventus – Sampdoria
After the heart-breaking Champions League match against Real Madrid, Juventus will return to the Scudetto race in full force. Despite being knocked out, in fact, the Bianconeri have shown great quality and mental strength at the Santiago Bernabeu, it will be interesting to see if they can put this energy and “anger” right away to keep Napoli afar. On the other hand, Sampdoria have finally found the right path again, as they managed to remain unbeaten for two games, after a three-games winless stint, in which they conceded 12 goals in total.
JUVENTUS (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Pjanic, Matuidi; Douglas Costa, Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.
SAMPDORIA (4-3-1-2): Viviano; Sala, Silvestre, G. Ferrari, Regini; Linetty, Torreira, Praet; Ramirez; Quagliarella, D. Zapata.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Juventus – Gonzalo Higuain
The Argentinian striker went missing in the two-leg tie against his former club, so he will be willing to show that Serie A is still his territory. After winning a penalty last week against Benevento coming off the bench, Higuain will probably be his fellow countryman Matias Silvestre’s 90-minute worst nightmare.
Sampdoria – Dennis Praet
Praet is one of the gem of Giampaolo’s team. Arrived from Anderlecht two seasons ago, the Belgian has hugely improved under Sampdoria’s coach, becoming one of the most interesting Serie A prospect, eyed also by Juventus, among the others. With his quality in the middle of the park, the Belgian atypical trequartista will definitely be one to watch for this game.
Juventus 1 – 0 Sampdoria
Juventus have always made this kind of games at home look easy, but this time it may be different. It will be interesting to see how they will react to the painful defeat (over two legs) in the Champions League and how much physical and mental energy they have left in the tank after scoring three goals at the Bernabeu and still being eliminated. On the other hand, Sampdoria have looked better defensively in the last two games, while on the attacck they can rely on the never-aging Fabio Quagliarella, who yet to score his first goal against his former team in a Samp shirt. In the end, anyways, Juve may end up winning the game but I’m confident it will be a much closer game than expected.
Lazio – Roma
There couldn’t be a better ending to Matchday 32 than the Derby della Capitale. Roma and Lazio sit together with 60 points in the standings, but the morale of the teams is very different. On one side, Lazio experienced a shocking elimination from the Europa League against Salzburg. The Biancocelesti, after a 4-2 win in the first leg in Rome, suffered an unthinkable comeback from the Austrian side and were knocked out from the European competition. The other side of Rome, instead, went crazy with joy on Tuesday, as the Giallorossi made a miracle defeating one of the favourites for the Champions League win and going through to the semi-finals for the first time in more than 20 years.
LAZIO (3-5-1-1): Strakosha; Bastos, De Vrij, Radu; Marusic, Parolo, Lucas Leiva, Milinkovic-Savic, Lulic; Luis Alberto; Immobile.
ROMA (3-4-3): Alisson; Fazio, Manolas, Juan Jesus; Florenzi, Strootman, De Rossi, Kolarov; Schick, Dzeko, Nainggolan.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Roma – Edin Dzeko
Manolas’s goal was the decisive goal in the Barcelona game, but nothing of that couldn’t have been possible if the Bosnian target man would have flown to London to join Chelsea in winter, like he was poised to. With two goals, a won penalty and many, many useful plays for his team, Edin Dzeko was one of the main architects of the heroic qualification of the Giallorossi. Now there’s another tough challenge awaiting, one that for many Roma’s supporters is as important as the previous one: the derby.
Lazio – Ciro Immobile
Who else if not the current Serie A top goalscorer? With 39 goals in 42 games in all competitions, Ciro Immobile is enjoying a fantastic season, most probably the best in his career so far. Big games or not doesn’t make much of the difference for him, the odds are that you will always find his name in the score-sheet for Lazio. Derbies, especially Rome’s one, are always tense game, where excessive challenges and tackles could start flying at any time, and him being the penalty taker for his team makes it even more probable that his seasonal goals tally will be higher at the end of the matchday.
Lazio 2 – 1 Roma
As I have said in many occasions making my previews, derby are very unpredictable games. The Derby della Capitale is one of Italy’s biggest grudge match, so it will definitely be tense both on and off the pitch. At 20:45 Italian time, the Capital will stop to watch what may be a decisive game in the race for next year’s Champions League qualification. The Giallorossi are over the moon for the unbelievable qualification to the semi-finals, but they have been very inconsistent in the league this season, while the Biancocelesti missed out on a big opportunity to reach the Europa League last step before the final. Despite this huge difference in the morale, Inzaghi’s side could turn this situation to their advantage, as often happens in this kind of games where the team that looks in worse shape ends up winning it.