Rifinitura: Milan Celebrate Birthday as Genoa Host Derby

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.

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After some bitter-sweet results by Italian clubs in the mid-week European competitions, we turn our focus to this weekend’s Round 16 of Serie A, which includes some exciting matchups.

Genoa – Sampdoria

It’s going to be a wonderful game; intense, compassionate. This is why sport is so incredible.” Those were the words of Sampdoria boss Claudio Ranieri, ahead of his team’s clash with city rivals Genoa, in what is famously dubbed as the “Derby della Lanterna”, or Derby of the Lightouse. The rivalry got its name from the main lighthouse of the city’s port.

Both rivals are currently struggling for survival, and both have already changed managers since the start of the season. Ranieri actually coached current Genoa manager Thiago Motta when the former was in charge at Inter in 2011-12. Sampdoria are unbeaten in the last six derby meetings in the league. Genoa’s last derby win came in 2016, and they could surely use a morale-boosting victory against their archrivals, or they will find themselves in a relegation battle with other clubs come season end.

Brescia – Lecce

Before Saturday night’s Derby della Lanterna, the match-day kicks off earlier in the day at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti, as Brescia welcome Lecce in the matchup between the newly-promoted sides. Eugenio Corini – reinstated after being sacked in November – had an immediate impact as he led his Brescia side last week to its first victory in 10 matches. Lecce, on the other hand, seem to fare better playing away, as they picked up 11 of their 15 points this season away from home. Both teams are desperately in need of a win to avoid complex calculations at the bottom of the table in the coming months.

Napoli – Parma

After 7 games without a win, which left Napoli 7th and 17 points from table leaders Inter, the Partenopei decided to part company with manager Carlo Ancelotti, and replace him with Gennaro Gattuso. Gattuso will be grateful to Ancelotti for guiding the team to the Champions League knockout stages, and will also be grateful to have striker Arkadiusz Milik back in form. The Polish striker scored a hat-trick mid-week and was vital in last season’s meetings against Parma, when he netted twice in both games in the league.

Parma will hope to leapfrog Napoli in the table with a win, something they haven’t achieved at the San Paolo Stadium since Antonio Cassano’s winner in 2013.

Hellas Verona – Torino

Torino have a sort of a love story with the city of William Shakespeare’s legendary play Romeo and Juliet: Verona. The Toro’s last nine Serie A trips to the Marc’Antonio Bentegodi Stadium were fruitful, as they resulted in six victories, two draws and just a single defeat. The Granata will be aiming towards a third-straight away win in Serie A; a feat they haven’t achieved since February of 2015. On the other side, the Gialloblu will want to end a two-game losing streak, putting their hopes on their leading scorer Samuel Di Carmine in the Sunday lunch-time kickoff.

Juventus – Udinese

The most famous Bianconeri suffered their first loss in all competitions last week at the hands of Lazio at the Olimpico, and the Turin-based side will come firing on all cylinders to rectify that defeat. The other Bianconeri, Udinese, will hope to capitalize on their draw with Napoli last week. Udinese’s last win over The Old Lady at the Allianz Stadium came in the opening match of the 2015-16 season, when current Fiorentina midfielder Cyril Théréau scored the game’s only goal.

Bologna – Atalanta

Fresh from their historic qualification to the Champions League knockout stages this week, Atalanta face a tough trip to Bologna. The Rossoblu manager Sinisa Mihajlovic will be looking forward to meeting his counterpart Gian Piero Gasperini, with the latter being Mihajlovic’s favorite victim, as the Serbian won five times against him in Serie A.

Milan – Sassuolo

We will be a team of devils. Our colors will be red like fire, and black like the fear we will strike in our opponents.”

Unforgettable words from one of the founders of Milan, English merchant Herbert Kilpin. This week, the Rossoneri celebrate their 120th anniversary as they welcome Sassuolo at the San Siro on Sunday. There will be a parade of former legendary players and managers gathering to celebrate the birthday of one of Italy’s most iconic football clubs. The fans will expect nothing less than a victory to mark this historic occasion.

However, the Neroverdi won’t be falling over easily. Milan will have to keep a special eye on Domenico Berardi, who has scored eight goals against the Rossoneri in the league, more than against any other club.

Roma – SPAL

Roma are performing brilliantly at the moment, with five wins from their last seven league games, and only goal difference separating them from a top-four position. SPAL are currently bottom of the league, and will hope to get inspiration from last season when they came to the Olimpico and pulled off a shocking 2-0 victory.

Fiorentina – Inter

Antonio Conte’s side will hope to bounce back after crashing out of the Champions League this week. They will want to pounce on a weak Fiorentina side that has suffered four straight league defeats, with striker Romelu Lukaku aiming to score for the fifth consecutive away league match, a feat last achieved by Diego Milito in 2010.

Cagliari – Lazio

This round concludes on Monday night with a delicious treat for Serie A fans: fourth-placed Cagliari host third-placed Lazio in a fixture that promises much entertainment. Both teams are scoring goals for fun this season, with this year’s leading scorer Ciro Immobile (17 goals) facing off one of his main challengers João Pedro (10 goals). The Brazilian scored his first Serie A goal in 2014, and oddly enough, it came against Lazio.

Joao Pedro has reminded the Rossoblu fans of legend Gigi Riva, after becoming the second player in Cagliari’s history to score ten goals in a season’s first fifteen matches, a stat only accomplished by the legendary Rombo di Tuono (“Roar of Thunder”) in 1969 and 1973. The Sardinian side commemorates this year the 50th anniversary of the club’s only Scudetto, in which Riva played the part of the main protagonist. In May, the club will be also be celebrating the centennial of its foundation. The fans won’t be too upset if a top-four league position is also on the menu of the season’s accomplishments.

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