Now that the worst has happened – to quote Federcalcio President Carlo Tavecchio, who a few weeks ago had prophetically cautioned that failing to qualify for the World Cup would be comparable to an apocalypse – it’s up to Serie A to alleviate the pain of a Country which suddenly woke up with the nightmare of having to make alternate plans for next Summer.
Thanks to the football gods, or more simply to those who compiled the match schedule, calcio lovers will have a rich program in Round 13 to drown their pain in, with six out of the top seven ranking clubs crossing their paths in direct confrontations.
Football fans living in the Capitale, above all, will have little time to think about it, as a new edition of the Derby di Roma unfolds tonight at 18.00. Few times in recent history have both Rome clubs come to a derby in such a good shape and high-rank position in the league table – Lazio with 28 points, Roma with 27. That is going to make a match whose outcome is traditionally hard to predict even more uncertain.
Roma is likely going to miss Radja Nainggolan who suffered a small injury while playing for his national side. Lorenzo Pellegrini may replace him, and that’s a good thing: The young lad is one of the most interesting prospect for the future Nazionale. We need him, and he needs to play. On the attacking line, Brazilian Gerson – who scored a double two weeks ago against Fiorentina – will battle for a spot against Stephan El Sharaawy.
No big news on Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio side: long-term injured Felipe Anderson and Wallace Fortuna are still unavailable. Goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha has been in doubt earlier in the week, but should be able make it. Ciro Immobile will be looking for those goals that he missed against Sweden.
At 8.45 PM tonight, top-ranking Napoli will receive Milan at San Paolo Stadium, in a match that, once again, will constitute a final call for Rossoneri coach Vincenzo Montella. Maurizio Sarri will try to cover the gap left on the left side by injured Faouzi Ghoulam deploying Mario Rui in his place. Montella can count again on recovered Giacomo Bonaventura, but will miss Hakan Calhanoglu. On the midfield line, Riccardo Montolivo will be once again preferred to Lucas Biglia.
Two interesting matches for the relegation battle will take place on Sunday afternoon, with Crotone receiving Genoa, and Benevento looking for their first points playing at home against Sassuolo. The Calabresi, on a two-game winning streak, will test Grifoni’s new coach Davide Ballardini at his debut. The match at Ciro Vigorito stadium will feature two teams deploying a hazardous 4-3-3 lineup, and both in desperate need of points: Fireworks are to be expected.
A perilous match awaits Juventus in Genoa, as they face a Sampdoria galvanized by the 2-0 win in their recent city derby. Blucerchiati Coach Marco Giampaolo will indeed confirm the eleven men that took over the Derby della Lanterna, whereas Massimiliano Allegri may give a chance to recovering Mehdi Benatia in defense. Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic will be supporting lone striker Gonzalo Higuain.
Inter will face Atalanta at San Siro Stadium, trying to get advantage from the theoretically arduous tasks that Napoli and Juventus needs to tackle. The Nerazzurri from Bergamo will miss injured Leonardo Spinazzola, and maybe Josip Ilicic – it’s going to be a hard one, even in view of the upcoming Europa League match against Everton. The most famous ones from Milan will confirm Roberto Gagliardini at midfield. Luciano Spalletti can also rely on his captain Mauro Icardi – whose knee inflammation had put his presence at risk.
Torino and Chievo will battle to get closer to a possible Europa League spot, whereas Udinese and Cagliari to maintain a security margin over the relegation area. Granata’s coach Sinisa Mihajlovic confirms Iago Falque, Andrea Belotti, and Adem Ljajic in a three-man attack where Mbaye Niang has by now lost his spot. Usual lineup for Rolando Maran’s Gialloblu, with Riccardo Meggiorini to support striker Roberto Inglese.
Gigi Del Neri has a few doubts to solve on his Bianconeri defensive line: Iraqi Ali Adnan and Brazilian Samir are likely to win a place, while Bram Nuytinck is expected to stay on the bench. A couple of dilemmas to solve also for Diego Lopez, with his Islanders lineup to feature Diego Farias and Artur Ionita – in place of, respectively, Marco Sau and Joao Pedro.
Fiorentina will go to Ferrara to meet Spal and their chances to leave the danger zone. With Mirco Antenucci out due to an injury, Spal coach Leonardo Semplici will give veteran forward Marco Borriello the task of supporting Alberto Paloschi. The Viola find back center back Vincent Laurini, but lose Milan Badelj at midfield. Long-time injured Riccardo Saponara will sit on the bench, but it won’t still be time to see him back on the pitch.
In a Monday night delayed match, Hellas Verona’s trident Alessio Cerci-Giampaolo Pazzini-Daniele Verde will try to take advantage of Bologna’s bad moment with four losses in a row, and forward Federico Di Francesco out for almost two months.