Feature Photo: Sport Mediaset
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 postponing the bulk of last week’s matches due to the coronavirus threat, Serie A announced there will be five matches played without fans this weekend, including the Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Inter.
“Vincere non è importante…È l’unica cosa che conta.”
(“Winning is not important…It’s the only thing that matters”)
The immortal words uttered by Juventus legend and former chairman Giampiero Boniperti are now the backdrop and official club motto for La Vecchia Signora.
Juventus, not just a club but a true way of life.
Many happy returns, Giampiero Boniperti. pic.twitter.com/aqPry7jVr1
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 4, 2016
Juve are on the track of winning a historic 9th consecutive league title in Italy, and among this year’s contenders, are old foes Inter. The Nerazzurri are six points adrift from the league leaders (with a game in hand), and their coach Antonio Conte will want to come out victorious, not just to make his team climb up in the standings, but also to get one over his former employers.
The last time Inter took all three points from Juve was back in 2016.
If Juve’s Cristiano Ronaldo scores in this matchday, he will be the first-ever Serie A player to score in 12 consecutive league outings. Even by the Portuguese’s extremely high standards, this would be some achievement.
It will be surely disappointing for a game of this magnitude to be played without fans, but the health and safety of football fans are the number one priority at the moment.
If you are wondering what heaven is like, just ask a Lazio fan. Their team is unbeaten in Serie A since last September, have the best attack in the league after Atalanta, and are one point away from leaders Juventus. They’ll hope they win the opening match of this round and watch Scudetto rivals Juve stumble in their tough encounter with Inter. Lazio’s mission won’t be a walk in the park, though. Opponents Bologna are a threat in counterattacks, and they held the Laziali to a goalless draw when the teams met in October.
Udinese are slowly feeling the heat from the chasing pack below them in the standings. The Bianconeri haven’t won in 6 and sit 15th in the table, anxiously looking over their shoulders at a possible, highly-undesirable relegation battle. Fiorentina are sitting just two places above Udinese, and they hope to get the win and complete the double over their hosts on Saturday.
Napoli have four wins from five, are lying 6th in the table, and are back in competition for Europa League qualification next season. One of the main contributors to this recent good form is captain Lorenzo Insigne, who has scored five goals since Gennaro Gattuso took the helm at Napoli in December. Insigne’s national team partner, Andrea Belotti of Torino, is poised to play his 200th Serie A game. The 26-year-old striker has fond memories of Naples, as he scored his first Serie A goals in Napoli’s San Paolo San Paolo Stadium back in 2014.
The oldest club in Italy is facing the possibility of being relegated. Genoa are now 18th in the table and face a rocky ride to San Siro Stadium to face Milan. If the Grifone wants to come out from that match up with any point at all, they will have to stop Milan’s Ante Rebic. The Croatian is the Rossoneri’s top scorer in Serie A this season with 6 goals, all coming after the new year.
Ante Rebic – @acmilan
First 8 Serie A appearances:
Last 6 Serie A appearances:
Despite starting just five league matches all season, the Croatian is now Milan's top scorer pic.twitter.com/U2ccDB4m2p
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 24, 2020
Lecce’s three-match winning streak faced a reality check from Roma last weekend. This weekend, they face the league’s best-attacking force in the form of Atalanta. Their last home win against La Dea was in 2005, but they have only faced each other on five other occasions since. Apart from being the league’s most lethal team, La Dea have also been divine away from home this season. Just one defeat from 12 matches makes the pundits predict a one-way train in the Puglia region on Sunday.
After having their game postponed last week, Parma have the chance of achieving two consecutive northern-derby victories after winning against Sassuolo a fortnight ago. This time the Ducali face bottom side SPAL. The Ferraresi are on a five-match losing streak and have only scored 19 goals in the league so far. They will need a stellar performance to go out from the Ennio Tardini Stadium with all three points.
Sassuolo are seeking a 4th win in six league matches. Captain Domenico Berardi is expected to make his 250th appearance for Sassuolo in all competitions ever since he started representing the Neroverdi in 2012. Brescia’s defeat last week by Napoli was their 17th of the season, which meant that they have failed to get a win in the league ever since mid-December. The Rondinelle’s situation in the league table doesn’t look too bright at the moment.
Cagliari’s last win in Serie A was also in December. The Rossoblu started the season superbly but have been winless for almost three months now. The fact that they last won against Roma in 2012 won’t help either. Roma’s misfortunes since the start of the year vanished last week as they cruised to an easy 4-0 victory at home against Lecce. Edin Džeko’s goal in that match moved him to 6th on the all-time top goalscorers in Roma’s history. Not bad for the Bosnian, who only joined the club five years ago.
6 – Edin #Dzeko, 102 goals with the Giallorossi, has now equalled Montella as the sixth goalscorer all-time with AS Roma in all competitions.
Totti (307 gol)
Dzeko – Montella (102)
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 23, 2020
The final curtain of this round will be concluded at the Luigi Ferraris (aka Marassi) Stadium as Sampdoria welcome Hellas Verona on Monday night. La Samp are sitting just one point above the drop zone, and a victory would certainly advance their cause for survival. It will be difficult to achieve that, though, as they face a relentless Hellas Verona side that are unbeaten in their last nine matches in the league. The Gialloblu could do the double over Sampdoria for the first time in their history, having won the reverse fixture 2-0 last October.