Serie A Matchday 35 Preview
With four matches remaining, the Serie A race to the title is still wide open. After the winner header from Koulibaly in the 90’, Napoli have narrowed the gap between them and Juventus to one point (85 pts. for the Bianconeri, 84 pts. for the Azzurri). Now their hopes to be crowned champions are stronger than ever, as Allegri’s side has some tough fixtures ahead, starting from this week-end’s derby d’Italia against Inter. In the Champions League zone, all three contenders won their respective games from last week, so the situation remains unmodified, with the two clubs of Rome siting in 3rd and 4th place with 67 pts. each and Inter trailing them at 66. In the meanwhile, last week’s matchday gave the first official verdict of this season, as Benevento got mathematically relegated to Serie B. However, the Stregoni but they bid farewell to Serie A in style, reaching an historical win at San Siro against Milan. The Rossoneri now found themselves fighting for a Europa League spot with Atalanta, Sampdoria and Fiorentina.
Here are all the matches of Serie A matchday 35:
Saturday, April 28th (time GMT +1)
Roma – Chievo Verona
Inter – Juventus
Sunday, April 29th (time GMT +1)
Crotone – Sassuolo
Benevento – Udinese
Bologna – Milan
Atalanta – Genoa
Verona – SPAL
Sampdoria – Cagliari
Fiorentina - Napoli
Torino – Lazio
GAMES TO WATCH
Roma - Chievo
Roma return to Serie A after the 5-2 defeat against Salah and his Liverpool’s teammates. After last week’s comfortable 3-0 win against SPAL, Di Francesco’s side face another team desperate for points like Chievo Verona. The Gialloblu sit in fact only two points clear of the relegation zone and the risk of them going down after ten consecutive seasons in the Italian top flight is concrete. For this delicate match, Di Francesco will probably play a rotated team ahead of the return leg against Liverpool and will have to replace two important players like Perotti and Strootman, sidelined by injuries after the game at Anfield.
ROMA (4-3-3): Alisson; Bruno Peres, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Nainggolan, Gonalons, Pellegrini; Schick, Dzeko, El Shaarawy.
CHIEVO (5-3-2): Sorrentino; Cacciatore, Bani, Radovanovic, Tomovic, Jaroszynski; Depaoli, N. Rigoni, Giaccherini; Stepinski, Inglese.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Roma – Lorenzo Pellegrini
Despite not being a regular starter for Roma, Pellegrini managed to show why the Giallorossi brought him back from Sassuolo last summer. His technique and ability to run in the space, make him a complete midfielder, with different characteristics than his teammate Strootman (whom Pellegrini will replace for this game). Against a compact team like Chievo his vertical plays could be a key-factor for Roma.
Chievo – Mariusz Stepinski
The Polish striker, in his first season in Serie A, has shown that he can score goals but more importantly that he can score them against big teams. Out of his four goals in 650’ this season, three were netted past top goalkeepers like Reina, Handanovic and Donnarumma. Could Alisson be his next victim?
Roma 1 – 2 Chievo
This could be the main upset of this matchday. The defeat against Liverpool is still fresh in Roma players’ memory and this could give a mental advantage to Maran’s side, currently desperate for points. Moreover, Chievo proved to be a very dangerous side against important opponents. If the Gialloblu managed to play their way, compact in defence and rapid on the counter, it could be difficult for Roma to break them down.
Inter - Juventus
The big match of this Serie A round: the derby d’Italia. The rivalry between these two teams needs no introduction, and I’m sure that it will be even bigger due to the importance of this game for both teams. Allegri’s side in fact can’t afford to drop more points, as Napoli are now breathing down their neck, while Inter want to get a good result to keep pursuing the qualification for next season’s Champions League. Juventus could make some formation changes for this game, especially in defence, where Rugani will replace the injured Chiellini and Cuadrado could play right-back to try and stop Perisic, while Dybala could start from the bench, after some dull performances.
INTER (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Cancelo, Skriniar, Miranda, D’Ambrosio; Borja Valero, Brozovic; Karamoh, Rafinha, Perisic; Icardi.
JUVENTUS (4-3-3): Buffon; Cuadrado, Rugani, Barzagli, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Mandzukic, Douglas Costa; Higuain.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Inter – Mauro Icardi
If there’s one game where Mauro Icardi is more lethal than usual, that’s against Juve. Inter’s captain has in fact scored six goals against the Bianconeri in his career, making them one of his favourite victims. Without Chiellini, who is one of the best defenders in the world when it comes to man-marking, he could have even more space to find the back of the net in a crucial game for the Nerazzurri’s season.
Juventus – Juan Cuadrado
The Colombian winger could be one of the protagonist of this match, as he is one of the few Juventus players that can bring pace and unpredictability to Bianconeri’s attacking manoeuvre. Even playing right-back, he could play a vital role in keeping Perisic, one of Inter’s most dangerous players, in a deeper position and at the same time support Douglas Costa in attack.
Inter 1 – 1 Juventus
It will be a tense game, due to the fact that both teams need to win in order to reach their respective goals. Inter are yet to lose a game against big teams (2W 6D against Napoli, Roma, Milan, Juventus and Lazio) and they have lost only one game at home this season. On the other hand, Juventus could be more fragile in defence without their defensive leader Chiellini, but they have so many offensive solutions and enough quality to score at least one. All things considered, the most probable outcome for a match like this is a draw.
Fiorentina - Napoli
The 90th minute of the Juventus game crowned a new king of Naples: Kalidou Koulibaly. With his winner at the Allianz Stadium, the Senegalese gave a huge morale boost to his team. Despite being still one point behind Juve, Napoli now have a great chance to win the Scudetto after 28 years. Their opponents for this matchday will be Fiorentina, that are in the group of teams battling to book a place for next Europa League. It will be a tough game for the Azzurri, as Pioli’s band has shown to be a compact and dangerous side, with many interesting players like Chiesa and Veretout, eyed also by De Laurentiis’s club.
FIORENTINA (3-5-1-1): Sportiello; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Gaspar; Chiesa, Benassi, Badelj, Veretout, Biraghi, Saponara, Simeone.
NAPOLI (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Fiorentina – Jordan Veretout
After arriving in Florence this summer from Aston Villa, the French midfielder has been one of the most surprising players of this Serie A campaign so far. His ability to move the ball and find the goal both from distance and set pieces could be an important asset for Fiorentina for this match. His excellent performances and his 8 goals so far, have drawn the attention of many big clubs, Napoli included, and this could be the perfect game to showcase his qualities in front of Sarri, Giuntoli and De Laurentiis.
Napoli – Lorenzo Insigne
Being a Neapolitan playing for Napoli, Insigne knows better than everyone of his teammates how important the Scudetto would be for the city of Naples. The fact that he has been the best one of Napoli’s front trio lately proves it: he wants to be the emotional and technical leader of his team in this last few games that could make his childhood dream come true.
Fiorentina 0 – 2 Napoli
It will be a spectacular match. The momentum is obviously on Napoli’s side right now, they will fight until the last minute of their last game because they know this could be one-of-a-lifetime occasion to write history. On the other hand, Fiorentina seem to be a bit tired after their impressive run of six consecutive win, as the Viola didn’t win any of their last three Serie A matches. I think Napoli will do anything they can to win this game and they will end up getting the three points, especially if Juventus should drop point against Inter.