In Italian football, an “allenamento di rifinitura” is the final training session before a match. In the Cult of Calcio’s Rifinitura column, we take a look at what the weekly Serie A menu has to offer and in what condition the teams are in.
After witnessing an historic sixth (yes, sixth!) Ballon d’Or win by Lionel Messi this week, we Italians can finally breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Fabio Cannavaro will remain, for at least another year, the last defender to have won the prestigious award.
Now, we shall concentrate on this weekend’s Serie A match program, which promises to have some mouth-watering clashes.
The biggest clash of the weekend ended up in a goalless stalemate at San Siro on Friday night. Antonio Conte’s Inter couldn’t convert their chances into goals, as Roma’s substitute goalkeeper, veteran Antonio Mirante, produced a brilliant display of saves, along with a compact defensive line led by Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini.
— Goal (@goal) December 6, 2019
Inter are now two points clear of defending champions Juventus. The Nerazzurri faithful will temporarily transform into hardcore Laziali on Saturday night – after all, there is a long-lasting friendship between the two fan bases – as they will cheer for Lazio to stop Juventus from clinching the top spot in the league table.
Atalanta – Hellas Verona
The second game of this matchday sees Atalanta hosting Hellas Verona in Bergamo. The Bergamaschi are having an incredible campaign so far this season, and are only three points off from the Champions League qualification places. When it comes to the Champions League, Atalanta can still qualify to the next round this upcoming midweek by beating Shakhtar Donetsk from Ukraine and hoping to receive a favor from Manchester City to win against Dinamo Zagreb.
Hellas Verona are currently possessing the third best defense in Serie A with only 14 goals conceded in as many matches. The Veronesi will look for inspiration from their last win in Bergamo in 2014 when world champion Luca Toni led them to a 2-1 victory over Atalanta.
Udinese – Napoli
Napoli seem to have forgotten how to win and bring home something called “three points.” Their last win in the league was on October 19, against Hellas. However, if there is something to console the Partenopei, it’s their superb performances against Udinese in recent years, as they have won the last six meetings between the sides in Serie A.
This campaign, Udinese have kept three clean sheets in their last four home league matches. The Bianconeri’s last home league win against Napoli was a 3-1 victory in 2016. They will be smelling blood and looking forward to repeating that long-awaited win against a struggling, divided Napoli squad on Saturday evening.
Lazio – Juventus
Lazio’s most famous victory over The Old Lady came in 2000, as Sven-Göran Eriksson’s men beat the Bianconeri which set them on track to win the historic Scudetto that year, their second in their history. Certainly, Simone Inzaghi’s men will be taking inspiration from that match to win against a Juventus side which hasn’t lost a single game in Serie A this season yet. With Inter stumbling to a draw against Roma on Friday, Maurizio Sarri and his team will aim to take advantage of that to make their return to the summit of Serie A.
— sportlive #sportlive (@sportli26181512) December 6, 2019
Lecce – Genoa
Fabio Liverani and his Lecce side are still searching for their first home win of the season. They face a Genoa side that is in the relegation places and looking to build on its victory midweek in Coppa Italia against Ascoli. This fixture combines the two worst defenses in Serie A as Genoa conceded 28 and Lecce 27.
SPAL – Brescia
The battle for survival takes on its full form Sunday as the worst attack in the league, SPAL, host Brescia who recently sacked their new manager Fabio Grosso, only to substitute him with Eugenio Corini, whom Grosso himself had replaced just one month ago. This is the first top-flight meeting between these two sides since the 1967-68 season. Both teams ended up being relegated that year.
Sassuolo – Cagliari
Cagliari’s Radja Nainggolan picked up the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award for the month of November, and he will want to continue his excellent form and guide his Rossoblu side to yet another victory on the road. However, the Sardinians will face a tough opponent in Sassuolo and their new acquisition this season in defense Jeremy Toljan. The German gave Cristiano Ronaldo a run for his money in last week’s 2-2 draw at the Allianz Stadium, and will surely represent a challenge for the Sardinians on Sunday.
Torino – Fiorentina
La Granata contro La Viola. The two famous colors of the sides meet as both teams sit comfortably in mid-table of the Serie A standings. This match will be of special significance to Fiorentina midfielder Marco Benassi, who represented the Granata for almost three years before joining the Tuscan side in 2017.
Sampdoria – Parma
The Crociati’s last win at the Marassi Stadium was 8 years ago in 2011. Parma are now seriously looking at the league table and they must think that the Europa League qualification places are not just a dream. Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria, on the other hand, have had a couple of good results since the Italian’s appointment in mid-October, and they will look to build on them to claim all three points on Sunday.
— Notizie Veneto (@NotizieVeneto) December 4, 2019
Bologna – Milan
The round finale will be a total northern affair as Bologna play host to Milan on Sunday night. Sinisa Mihajlovic will hopefully be able to make his fifth dugout appearance since he was diagnosed with leukemia this summer. The Serbian’s men claimed a well-deserved victory at Napoli last week and will look to leapfrog their next opponents and Mihajlovic’s former employers Milan in the table if they manage to get the three points. Stefano Pioli’s Milan were also victorious last week as they won at Parma. The Italian spent three years as manager of Bologna from 2011 to 2014 and will hope to get one over his old team at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara this Sunday.